Haines’ Public Safety Commission will remain short a few members, for now. The Assembly was set to confirm appointments to the body at a meeting Tuesday. But, it was unable to come to an agreement and postponed making a decision on filling the two vacant seats.
There’s been a lot of back-and-forth on this. So, let’s just take a minute to talk about how we got here.
Earlier this year, the Public Safety Commission recommended two people to fill vacant seats in its group.
Chuck Mitman and Pat Hefley received the commission’s endorsement. Mitman is a longtime volunteer firefighter and EMT.
Hefley is the Administrator for the SEARHC clinic in Haines.
He is also one of the people Mayor Jan Hill recommended for the position last month.
The makeup of the commission has been an ongoing discussion for the assembly. Last year, the commission asked to make some changes that would broaden its focus to include heath issues related to public safety. Commissioners wanted to add representatives from SEARHC, Lynn Canal Counseling, and the Haines School, and change its name.
But, though the assembly voiced support for having those professionals in the conversation, it didn’t want to bring them in through a code change to the commission. In the end, no changes were made.
But Mayor Hill said she still wanted to move in that direction.
She recommended the assembly appoint Hefley and Lynn Canal Counseling Director Kelly Williamson.
But the process in code says the commission has to make a recommendation to the mayor, and the assembly confirms.
It went back to the public safety commission. That’s how Mitman and Hefley came to the assembly for confirmation.
Deputy Mayor Stephanie Scott chaired the meeting.
“We have two appointments,” said Scott. “Chuck Mitman for a term ending Nov. 30, 2020. And Patrick Hefley for a term ending Nov. 30, 2019 for the public safety commission.”
But Assembly member Brenda Josephson had a different idea.
“I’d like to make a motion that we change the appointment to Paul Rogers to the Public Safety Commission,” said Josephson. “Instead of Patrick Hefley. So it would be Chuck Mitman and Paul Rogers.”
Tom Morphet seconded the motion.
“He’s a smart man,” said Morphet. “He’s attended a year’s worth of public safety commission meetings. He’s been at our meetings for more than a year. I think he’s shown a commitment. And I think he was one of the first people to apply for the board. And it’s a public safety commission.”
Rogers is a Mosquito Lake resident, retired from a career in law enforcement.
Morphet says that experience makes him particularly fit for the position. Speaking to KHNS, Morphet called putting Rogers on the commission a “no brainer.”
Morphet acknowledge the struggle to define the commission’s responsibilities, and said there may need to be a larger discussion in that sense.
Josephson says her vote wasn’t against Hefley, but for Rogers and the process for filling vacancies. She says Rogers was the first applicant in a delayed process and his experience would make him an asset to the commission.
But, others pushed back.
“I would like to speak in favor Patrick Hefley,” said Scott. “What his appointment to the commission means is that he can guide them in thinking about the opioid and drug abuse problems that are plaguing us. That we don’t really know about and he does.”
“I really like the idea of having somebody into the mental health component of public safety. I’m really glad Chuck is in the running, I think he’s a great fit,” said Maidy. “I just think that modern policing as said by every former public safety commissioner, every current police officer. Most police in the country, the evolution of policing is going from enforcement to understanding the mental health component.”
The issue went back and forth – motions and amendments were made – but they kept failing, because they couldn’t get the four positive votes needed.
The one thing everyone could agree on – postponing a decision until the next meeting.