The right result, the wrong process to get there
By Steven Hoffman
Remember when your math teacher would insist that you show your work on the way to solving a math problem?
The point of that, in addition to ensuring that you weren’t just copying the answer from someone, was that arriving at the right answer is great, but there’s more to it than that. The process counts.
Oxford Borough Council arrived at the right answer earlier this month when they tapped Randy Grace to fill a vacancy that was created with the resignation of Phillip Hurtt. But the process that they used to get there was wrong.
Grace previously served on borough council and he brings some much-needed experience to a governing body that will lose two of its three most experienced members at the end of the year. Grace is also a business owner in town. He should prove to be an asset to council, once again, as he completes the two-plus years of the unexpired term.
So borough council arrived at the right answer. The problem is the path that they took to get there.
Hurtt’s resignation was formally accepted by council at the July 15 council meeting, and the appointment of Grace was made that same evening—with no opportunity for borough residents to apply to fill the vacancy.
It is safe to say that most residents had no idea that there was a vacancy on borough council.
Borough council was well within its rights to make the appointment on the same night that resignation was accepted. Making the appointment did not violate the state’s borough code.
However, as several council members who voted against the immediate appointment said, filling the vacancy right away, without giving others the opportunity to express their interest in the position, was unfair.
The fact that it took a vote by mayor Lorraine Durnan Bell to break the tie adds a layer of complication to the situation.
This borough council is particularly well-intentioned, and the members struggle to do what is right and what is best for the borough. In this case, they made a mistake. The final answer might be right, but the process they took to get there was wrong.
The next time there’s a vacancy on Oxford Borough Council, here’s hoping that the council members opt to spread the word about the vacancy and accept applications from those residents who are interested in filling the vacancy before they move forward with an appointment.