4/14/20: 66 APPLICATIONS RECEIVED FOR TOWN MANAGER JOB: SEARCH ON SCHEDULE, SAYS CONSULTANT. The Washington Post Targets COVID-19 Checkpoints That Bar Nonresidents, Including in Dare County.

checkpointpost
A sheriff’s deputy works a checkpoint in Dare County just past the eastbound lanes of the Wright Brothers Memorial Bridge.

Sixty-six applicants, from 19 states, have applied for the position of Southern Shores town manager, search consultant Ellis Hankins told The Beacon today.

“We are very pleased with the quality of the candidate field,” Mr. Hankins said in an email. “The Town Council has a good number of very well-qualified candidates to consider at their meeting on April 20.”

Earlier today The Beacon reported that the Town Council has scheduled a closed session at 1 p.m. Monday in the Pitts Center to discuss “the on-going town manager selection process.”

The notice of the meeting posted on the Town website says no more than that, and, as The Beacon observed, the Town Council has given no updates about the search, which was officially launched on Feb. 20 when the first job advertisements were placed.

Planning Director Wes Haskett, who formerly served as deputy town manager, has been serving as an interim manager since Sept. 1, the date of former Town Manager Peter Rascoe’s official retirement. Mr. Haskett became acting town manager in mid-August when Mr. Rascoe left on two weeks’ leave.

By a vote of 3-2, the former Town Council refused to take any action to move the job search forward after Mr. Rascoe’s July resignation notice by identifying and hiring a qualified search firm. The majority deferred to the soon-to-be newly constituted Town Council that would take office in early December.

The Town contracted with Mr. Hankins, who is senior vice president of The Mercer Group in Raleigh, in February.

According to Mr. Hankins, “The search process is still on schedule, despite the recent challenges.”

The original search timeline called for the Town Council to meet in closed session in mid-April to consider candidates recommended by Mr. Hankins and to select five to seven semifinalists from among them to interview.

The Town Council voted to postpone this closed session to accommodate a family vacation Councilman Matt Neal had planned to take. It now will be held on April 20.

The Beacon does not understand why the Town could not have informed the public of the specific reason for Monday’s closed session, as well as give an idea as to how successful the search has been. With the current COVID-19 crisis, it is reasonable to wonder if the job search has been delayed.

Too often notices of Town meetings are insufficient in detail. Case in point: The agenda for next week’s budget workshop lists a number of topics for discussion, without giving any indication as to the Council’s intentions. Other towns are far more forthcoming.

According to Mr. Hankins, “The Council will discuss [on Monday] whether to proceed soon with remote initial interviews with selected semifinalists by electronic means, or postpone the interviews in hopes of being able to talk with candidates face to face. In any event, the Council can invite one or two finalists for face to face interviews later, if conditions allow.”

The Beacon appreciates the update.

THE WASHINGTON POST TAKES UP NON-RESIDENT PROPERTY OWNERS’ PLIGHT

Dare County’s March 19 order barring non-resident property owners from entry is questioned in an article in today’s The Washington Post about border checkpoints established by states and counties nationwide during the COVID-19 crisis.

See https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/covid-19-checkpoints-targeting-out-of-state-residents-draw-complaints-and-legal-scrutiny/2020/04/14/3fc0ed42-774e-11ea-b6ff-597f170df8f8_story.html

The article by Luz Lazo and Katherine Shaver mentions the lawsuit filed last week against Dare County by six non-resident property owners and quotes the plaintiffs’ attorney, Chuck Kitchen, as saying, “Just because you have a state of emergency does not mean that the government can suspend all your constitutional rights.”

Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten defends the entry restriction, purportedly saying: “We certainly want to keep the virus from spreading, but as important, if we do get it, we want to be sure we can take care of whoever gets sick. . . . We can’t do that with hundreds of thousands of people here.”

According to Mr. Outten, in The Post’s account, the “barrier islands” share 15 ambulances, and the Outer Banks Hospital does not have an intensive care unit.

On the matter of constitutional rights, the journalists write:

“Legal experts say state governments and police have broad power in a public health emergency, including the authority to order a quarantine. But some say some checkpoints appear to violate constitutional protections of free travel.

“Meryl Chertoff, an attorney and law professor leading the Georgetown Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law, said the Constitution prohibits state from discriminating against residents of another unless there is no less restrictive means to accomplish a legitimate goal. [This is the standard that The Beacon has cited.]

“‘The problem here is that you don’t know who is infected,’ Chertoff said. ‘If we get to the point where there’s rapid testing, then they could set up road blocks and run a spot test and turn around people who are sick. But in the absence of that, these roadblocks are way overbroad and are interfering with the right to travel.”

The Post did not quote a legal expert with a differing opinion, and certainly they exist. This is not a slam-dunk legal decision.

The article further quotes Boris Lushniak, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park, as saying: “If states with police checkpoints think they’re going to stop the disease, that’s not going to work. . . . But what may work is if I get pulled over . . .  someone tells me what the rules are” to self-quarantine. And he does.

But following up with someone who has agreed to self-quarantine, ret. USPHS Rear Admiral Lushniak says, is “a waste of time.”

Admiral Lushniak served as acting U.S. Surgeon General for 17 months during President Obama’s second term. A medical school graduate whose biography does not include medical practice, he also has worked at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.

Instead of staffing labor-intensive checkpoints, police should focus on patrolling communities to prevent people from congregating and to urge them to stay home, according to Scott Burris, an attorney and director of the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University’s school of law.

“We’re all exposed now—that’s how we have to think about it,” Professor Burris says. “There’s no geography to this now. It’s a national problem.

The Post reporters claim in their article that “deputies” in the Outer Banks “have ticketed four people who tried to get around the checkpoints and turned around about three dozen who tried to cross the Currituck Sound by boat. Officers also found one nonresident who tried to sneak in on a tow truck and another hidden in the trunk of a car.”

Without citing sources for these claims, The Post is passing along the same anecdotal evidence that stay-at-home locals have heard. The Beacon expected more.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 4/14/20

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