A week after firing executive director Joan Parker without explanation, the state Ethics Commission Thursday authorized chairman Kemp Morton to hire an interim director.
It was likely the last official act of the commission, which will be dissolved and replaced with a new, smaller nine-member panel on July 1.
With that in mind, Commissioner Robert Wolfe questioned whether the commission should set a limited period of time that the interim director would serve.
“Are we going to put a sunset on it. For example, is it going to be 30 days, 60 days, 90 days?” he asked. “The new sitting board also needs to have a hand in the hiring of the director.”
Commissioners noted, however, that the new commission will be free to take whatever action they wish with the interim director.
Commissioner Douglas Sutton noted, “If the new board finds the person unacceptable...”
“They could fire him,” Morton interjected, completing the thought.
After a unanimous voice vote authorizing Morton to hire an interim director, Morton asked that the commission go into closed-door executive session to discuss potential candidates for the position.
Morton said he wanted to protect the privacy of the potential candidate or candidates.
“I don’t want to do it publicly until I’ve made the actual hire,” he told the commission.
However, commission attorneys advised that it would be a violation of the state Open Meetings Act, since there was no item on the posted meeting agenda regarding a discussion of personnel matters.
Morton, who participated via teleconference, asked at the start of the meeting if any media were in attendance. He was advised four reporters were in the room.
Sutton closed the meeting by telling the commissioners, “Thank you all for everything you’ve done, and hopefully, we’ll see you again.”
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin may appoint some of the current commissioners to the new panel, but is not required to do so, under legislation passed in March creating the new commission.
Reach Phil Kabler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1220.