Farmington board applicant questions interview process

Farmington Hills resident Lindsay Brink has withdrawn from the process of appointing a new Farmington Public Schools trustee, but she’s raising concerns about the candidate interviews.

Brink was among 12 applicants for a position that opened with Jim Stark’s October 16 resignation. Two dropped out before the interviews conducted earlier this month; Brink and current trustee David Turner dropped out after board members deadlocked, moving the decision to the Oakland Schools board.

The problem, Brink said, is one of timing. Trustees interviewed nine applicants on November 10; two were scheduled on November 13, but one candidate withdrew. The first interviews were recorded and posted online over the weekend, so the last applicant, Jenn Garland, got to watch them before she faced the board on Tuesday.

Garland referenced the advantage during her interview, in response to a long question from the public posed by trustee Angie Smith.

“After I saw the final interview,” Brink said, “I realized the advantage she had. I have no issues with the candidate, it’s the process that’s flawed.”

No live broadcast

Brink, who was interviewed at 2 p.m., said she couldn’t attend all of the interviews, but tried to watch on her computer. While board meetings are not webcast, cable customers can usually watch live on TV-10.

District spokesperson Diane Bauman said two special events interfered with the live broadcast.

“The first interviews were not cablecast live due to the fact that TV-10 was off taping the Harrison High School Playoff Football game at the same time, as well as two performances of the ‘Detroit Tonight’ play that was being held in the TV-10 studio,” she wrote in an email.

Bauman explained that video uploads happen in real time; so getting a six-hour meeting online takes six hours. The interview videos, uploaded in two sessions, were available November 11.

“They were posted before the Tuesday interview because it was an Open Meeting, and we always try and get those tapes up as quickly as possible,” Bauman wrote. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure how fast TV-10 was going to be able to get it posted, due to all of the work on their plate that weekend.”

Brink said the video should have been delayed to make the interview process more fair to everyone.

“The public is not voting for this appointment,” she said. “They could have delayed the posting of interviews until all were complete. I strongly feel that this is an unfair process.”

Brink said the board has tried to regain public trust and to be more transparent, but she’s concerned about the direction the group is taking. She brought her concerns to trustees and described the response as “defensive.”

“I wonder why,” she said. “If you’re doing everything right, you shouldn’t care if I bring something up.”

Providing public information

Board president Terri Weems acknowledged having several conversations with Brink. She said the advantage for candidates interviewed last is “inherent in a public interview process.”

“However, every candidate had an opportunity to sit and hear interviews. In fact, Ms. Brink herself sat in on the interview which proceeded her own and therefore had an opportunity to hear interview questions ahead of time,” Weems wrote in an email.

Weems said the interview process is very similar to those conducted in previous years, except that the live broadcast was unavailable. She does not expect the process to change.

“”Our responsibility is to the public at large,” she wrote. “We interview in public, we deliberate in public, and we vote in public. We make these actions available to the public as soon as possible, whenever possible.”

Next steps

Oakland Schools officials have said they will offer the open position to the highest vote-getter in the November 6 General Election, Pam Green. If she accepts. Farmington trustees will go through another appointment process when she resigns to take the seat she won.

Oakland Schools trustees will talk about the appointment again on December 4, 6:30 p.m. in Waterford.