Until now, the identities of the approximately 100 total applicants for three open positions in Columbus city government have been a secret, which we believe to be reasonable policy.
On Monday, the city’s hiring committee narrowed the field of candidates to four for each position — Chief Operations Officer, Chief Financial Officer and IT Director.
Now that the fields for these positions have been narrowed, we believe the public should be allowed to learn their identities and listen in on the interviews. Human resources director Pat Mitchell said she plans to begin scheduling Zoom interviews this week.
The council initially moved to hold these interviews in public, but there’s some discussion now about whether they will adhere to that plan. We believe that citizens should have access to those interviews.
Hiring processes can be delicate matters for applicants who already hold a position elsewhere. For some, pursuing a job elsewhere may jeopardize their current positions. Because of this, providing anonymity in the initial phase of the process seems reasonable in that it may encourage rather than discourage applicants.
But candidates for public positions must be prepared for at least the possibility of having to forfeit some of their anonymity at some point of the process.
Opening the process once finalists have been selected serves the public interest.
There is much to be gained by making the process transparent at this stage.
Foremost, making the applicants’ resume and credentials public helps dispel any accusations of back room deals or bent rules which favor certain candidates. Holding the finalist interviews in public allows citizens to feel engaged in the process. While the final decisions rest with the council, allowing the public to know the identity of and hear from the candidates helps encourage transparency.
More than once — for positions in the past — members of the public and the media have been able to uncover information about applicants that the hiring committee would not otherwise have known.
In recent years, some finalist interviews for high profile positions — schools superintendents and police chiefs — have been held in public and have been well-attended.
We believe that’s good policy. If city leaders are sincere in their statements that they want citizens to be engaged and informed, holding these interviews in public is a good-faith example of that commitment.
Not every position should require public interviews, but high-profile jobs that have a direct impact on the lives of citizens should have that exposure.
That’s particularly true now of the COO of CFO positions. The people hired for these jobs will play active and crucial roles in day-to-day operations of the city, often in a very visible way.
We urge the city to keep faith with the citizens by not wavering in its initial decision to hold these finalists interviews in public.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.