COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County Treasurer Tom Malzahn has reversed his decision to retire early this month, he announced on Friday, out of concern that he would not be fairly replaced.
Malzahn, who declared in February that his last day would be next Thursday, will instead serve the rest of his four-year term and let voters pick the next treasurer in the 2014 primary.
Malzahn chose to remain, he said, out of concern that the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee would not choose an adequate replacement for him.
"It's not about me. It's about the citizens of Kootenai County," said Malzahn, treasurer for 12 years. "It's the fact that the person qualified to fill the position would not be that person (selected). That's my concern."
State statute requires the county commissioners appoint Malzahn's replacement, from a list of three candidates recommended by the county Republican central committee.
Malzahn is convinced the central committee isn't up to the task.
The committee has been dragging its feet on making nominations for his replacement, he said.
Nothing happened in a February meeting after he made his announcement, he argued, and a special meeting intended for making the nominations was canceled.
"And it's not on the agenda for this coming Tuesday (meeting)," said Malzahn, who still said his motivation for retiring was personal. "That's three meetings they could've done to make this as seamless a transition as possible."
Malzahn is also worried the central committee did not intend to recommend Malzahn's chief deputy, Laurie Thomas, for the appointment.
Malzahn based that conclusion on private conversations "that have been going on," he said.
Thomas is the only individual Malzahn wants to see appointed to his office, he said.
"She's been here for 12 years. There's nobody else who could come in and represent me, because it really is my term," Malzahn said. "Nobody else can come in and represent me like Laurie could."
He is fully capable of serving the rest of his term, he added.
Malzahn himself was first appointed to the treasurer's position in 2001, after being recommended by the KCRCC. He was elected in 2002 and then re-elected in 2006 and in 2010.
Malzahn's announcement comes as a surprise to the central committee, said Chair Neil Oliver.
"I would've really enjoyed being able to talk with him and see what his concerns were," Oliver said.
A meeting to nominate possible replacements had been delayed, Oliver acknowledged. But only due to scheduling conflicts and committee members' requests for more time.
"Some people didn't understand what the treasurer position was, and they wanted time to research that," Oliver said. "This is a big responsibility to put those three candidates forward."
Malzahn did recommend Thomas as his replacement when he announced his pending retirement at a central committee meeting, Oliver added.
But the nominations were the central committee members' choice to make, Oliver said.
The process would have been taken seriously, he insisted, with every nominee given a chance to speak before the body.
Oliver sees no reason why the chief deputy wouldn't have been recommended.
"(Malzahn) felt Laurie Thomas wouldn't be able to make it through that process, but that's really not his call," Oliver said. "It falls to the precinct committee people to make that determination, and you don't get to hand pick your replacement."
Oliver fully respects Malzahn's decision to remain if he wants, he said.
"He made his choice when he said he was going to resign, and he made his choice when he pulled back his resignation," Oliver said. "I'm going to stand by him and let him make his own determinations."