The best way to hire a county PIO

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Sam Taylorís tenure as a Kootenai County employee lasted exactly zero minutes.

Taylor, who was announced Friday as the countyís first official public information officer, contacted The Press over the weekend to say he had decided to not take the job. Instead, the former city of Coeur díAlene employee and before that, a Spokane newspaper reporter, is headed to a private business in Bozeman, Mont.

We wish Sam luck.

In the void he now leaves, we encourage the county to consider a couple of things.

First, while Sam was qualified for the $48,000 a year job ó less than half what he was making with Coeur díAlene ó county commissionersí decision to fill the newly created slot without posting the opening was short-sighted. While legally not required to post the position, there are more reasons to do so than not.

Public entities routinely settle on a favorite candidate and go through the motions of inviting others to apply, but for the sake of transparency and due diligence, every effort should be made to hold an honest-to-goodness competition for any opening. Sam might have been the best applicant for this job; then again, maybe somebody better would have tossed her or his hat in the ring. Fortunately, we might now find out.

While extra layers of government are generally hard to swallow, in Kootenai Countyís case a PIO is needed. With nine elected officials in county government all having communication responsibilities with the public, and only one of them ó the sheriff ó staffed with a PIO, thereís a huge gap between what officials are doing and what the public is told. Thatís a failure in basic communication and can be tragic when it comes to emergency situations.

The county should by all means create a position that can help coordinate emergency communications, handle public records requests and more. But it should advertise the opening and seriously consider holding off filling the position until two new commissioners take office in January. Otherwise, great candidates might stay away, knowing they could be let go as soon as thereís a new majority on the board of county commissioners.

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