Tampa Mayor Jane Castor undermined her own choice of police chief with a selection process that virtually eliminates any public opinion. That’s why the Tampa City Council, which had to confirm any nominations, pushed so hard on Thursday, and why no matter the outcome, there was no winner.
This month, Custer appointed Mary O’Connor to lead the Tampa Police Department, where she spent 22 years rising through the ranks before retiring as assistant chief in 2016. Her appointment marked one thing: O’Connor trusted both Custer, who ran the department herself before she was elected mayor, and John Bennett, the mayor’s chief of staff, another former assistant chief of police. The lack of transparency makes it difficult to understand.
The mayor’s office wants you to believe that O’Connor was selected as “best and smartest” in a national search that revealed two other finalists: Interim Commissioner Ruben “Butch” Delgado and Miami Police Assistant Chief Cheris Goss. But he can’t tell who or how many others are being considered, or explain the review process, which looks more and more erratic every day.
At a rehearsal for O’Connor’s nomination hearings, board members on Thursday presented Bennett with a familiar search process that they said was closed, biased and potentially fatally flawed. It remains to be seen whether these legitimate complaints will ultimately lead to the denial of the nomination. But no one can defend a search that only included one semi-public event and the finalists only hosted an invite-only audience. Is this the mayor’s transparency philosophy?
Several board members said they preferred Delgado, although it was unclear what the finalists would bring to the table given the secrecy involved. Why this administration made a hasty choice is anyone’s guess. The same reason why he did not bother to complete the assignments necessary to determine the finalists.
So now that the candidate is wounded, the second option – Delgado – is in limbo, and the mayor and council are further politicizing the post of chief of police. Tell us about the friendly fire episode.
All this can be avoided by a collaborative process that reflects the power of the mayor to appoint chiefs and the power of the council to give consent. Right now, the city’s most important department is at the center of a power struggle that is sure to outlive any confirmation vote in the coming weeks.
The editorial staff is the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The editorial board includes editors Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dorch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Paul Tash, chairman and chief executive officer. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more updates.
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Post time: Oct-18-2022