Stuck in an unusual impasse, the Anoka County Board will take another crack at deciding how to replace retiring County Administrator Jerry Soma at a special meeting Tuesday.
Board Chairwoman Rhonda Sivarajah is vying for the position, and her fellow commissioners this week cast deadlocked votes over whether to appoint Sivarajah directly or launch a formal search for Soma's successor.
The county's practice of appointing internally for its top job without a formal job posting has drawn criticism from some residents, who have raised concerns about transparency.
Several county officials also said they favor a search, with Commissioner Mandy Meisner proposing Tuesday that the county post the job internally for 30 days and interview candidates.
Efforts from Meisner and Commissioners Mike Gamache and Matt Look to launch an internal search failed at the March 26 meeting, as did a vote to appoint Sivarajah, splitting the board 3-3.
"This has got to be an open process," Gamache said Friday. "It's got to be discussed."
Sivarajah was out of town during the recent votes, but several of her colleagues backed her bid, including Commissioners Scott Schulte, Robyn West and Julie Braastad. Supporters have cited her experience working in the county's human services division and leadership chairing the board since 2011.
Schulte said some have politicized the issue.
"People keep saying it's about process, but it's not. It's the person they are concerned about," Schulte said after the recent meeting. "This process has been used not just for county administrators but for many of our division leaders and department heads for a long time."
The contract proposed March 26 for Sivarajah's appointment included an annual salary of nearly $175,000. Anoka County commissioners earn about $69,000.
Sivarajah said Friday that she plans to recuse herself from Tuesday's work session discussion, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the Anoka County Government Center, 2100 3rd Av. N., Anoka.
Though some have called for a broader external search, most of the board seems to favor hiring in-house.
Soma, who plans to retire May 1 after 52 years with the county, said he has offered to stay on part time if commissioners haven't filled his position by then.