Monday’s meeting of the Jackson County Legislature began with some drama when the legislature unanimously voted to block the appointment of Teesha Miller as director of COMBAT, the county’s anti-drug and anti-violence program.
Miller previously served as head of Jackson County’s prescription drug monitoring program.
Legislators criticized Jackson County Executive Frank White for not being inclusive in the hiring process.
White, who appointed Miller by executive order, disputes that claim. He says he and county staff went through a thorough interview process that began with about a dozen applicants.
White says he had scheduled a final round of interviews with four finalists with the legislature and the drug commission, but after one legislator sent out a public notice about the meeting, he called it off.
"The finalists didn't want that because some of them still had jobs and they didn't want to be asked questions by the public and they didn't want to be on TV," White says.
He says Monday's vote was based on politics, not on Miller’s merit.
“Well, because I think it’s all about me at that point. I think that there’s certain elected officials who want you to operate your administration with their people,” White says.
Furthermore, White says the legislature was being sneaky — by moving the vote to the beginning of the meeting, rather than at the end, when votes on executive orders are generally taken.
Several people showed up at Monday's meeting to testify in support of Miller, including Miller herself, but White says no one was allowed to speak.
"I had to force my way in to speak," White says.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker yesterday called the process “troubling.” She worked closely with COMBAT.
Lisa Rodriguez is KCUR's afternoon newscaster.