LETTER TO THE EDITOR: County did not choose most qualified attorney
Full disclosure: I am a friend of Clifford Wardlaw, having worked with him when I was an FBI agent assigned to investigate crimes on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
Mr. Wardlaw was the most experienced and qualified candidate for Beltrami County Attorney, having 30 years of distinguished service including 20 years as an assistant United States Attorney specializing in violent crimes, former liaison to the Red Lake Nation, member of the Red Lake Child Protection Team, extensive trial experience, volunteer for hazardous duty in Iraq.
It didn’t matter. Mr. Olson was impressed with Mr. Hanson’s remarks regarding the need to treat people addicted to opioids leniently, a viewpoint also held by Mr. Wardlaw. Mr. Sumner said if experience was the only factor, Mr. Wardlaw was the obvious choice, but “with mentoring” Mr. Hanson would do fine. For Mr. Lucachick: Mr. Hanson’s vote tally in the 2014 election, plus his youth and the fact he would be around for many years. Age as the basis for an employment decision may be a violation of law. Being a County Attorney is a critical role, not a position to be “mentored” in. Scenarios that require cool, calm countenance and experience: A heinous crime traumatizing the community, a quarantine crisis, having to make unpopular charging decisions.
Mr. Winger, the only public safety professional on the board, noted someone as qualified as Mr. Wardlaw does not often come around, expressed concern that the board was doing the citizens of the county a disservice by not selecting the most qualified candidate and asked the board to delay its vote, but was rebuffed.
I agree with Mr. Winger. The board has done the county a disservice. For whatever reasons, the board chose to pass by the most qualified candidate and shut down further debate. The “optics” of this vote are terrible. It is inexplicable to me on what basis Mr. Olson, Mr. Sumner and Mr. Lucachick based their votes. If they had agendas or relied on information outside of the selection process, we citizens deserve to know. I call upon them to publicly justify their decision in detail.
All applicants were qualified to be County Attorney. The only question is whether or not the County Board chose the most qualified candidate. Mr. Hanson is the new County Attorney. I wish him success, as his success will be a success for the county. He deserves our support.
John Patrick Egelhof