This Is The Best Baton Rouge Can Do For A Chief Administrative Officer?

It took forever for Sharon Weston Broome to hire William Daniel’s replacement, and the nominee is…underwhelming.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has hired a chief administrative officer to replace interim Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel. Troy Bell, who most recently served as acting city manager/deputy city manager of Walla Walla, Washington, will begin working as Baton Rouge’s new COA this week, Broome has announced.

“After an extensive search, I am fully confident in my decision,” Broome says in a statement. “Mr. Bell has an impressive, documented record of public service on federal, state, and local levels, including administration in a number of U.S. cities. I am absolutely assured that he will successfully lead the daily operations of our city and parish.”

Bell, who studied public administration at the University of Southern California, has been on the board of directors of the Washington, D.C.-based National Forum for Black Public Administrators for the past eight years.

He was most recently serving as deputy city manager in Walla Walla, Washington, until he got fired in November. Six months later Bell gets the CAO job in Baton Rouge, which is without question a promotion. Talk about failing up.

Why was Bell fired in Walla Walla? Mum’s the word

The city’s second top administrator, Deputy City Manager Troy Bell, was terminated on Friday, officials confirmed this morning.

The action came as a surprise to Bell, who on Sunday told the Union-Bulletin he had never been corrected for his performance while working for the city and had received positive feedback from City Manager Nabiel Shawa, who fired him.

“While Troy has many positive attributes, the alignment of his skills and job expectations were not what was hoped for,” City Manager Nabiel Shawa wrote in a Monday email to the Union-Bulletin. He declined to provide more specific reasons for the termination.

That quote is a milestone in euphemism…we think. But then there’s this…

His termination came as a surprise to Walla Walla Mayor Allen Pomraning, who said the City Council was informed of Bell’s termination in an email delivered late Thursday.

Pomraning added that city policy prevents Council members from getting involved in hiring and firing of employees — except for hiring a city manager and city attorney.

“The human side of me wants to know what happened,” Pomraning said today to the Union-Bulletin. “But the City Council side of me says don’t get into it.”

Pomraning added that at no time was the termination discussed by the Council, including during executive sessions.

The city council in Walla Walla doesn’t even want to find out why the #2 at the city manager’s office is getting dumped? No skeletons there at all, surely.

Walla Walla is 83 percent white and has a population of 31,000 people. Sharon Weston Broome conducted a four month search for a CAO for East Baton Rouge Parish, which is about 50-50 black and white and has over 400,000 people, and her nationwide search yields a guy who was fired after four months as an assistant city manager in Walla Walla, Washington.

Who is black. Not that this matters, of course; one would surmise there are without question a significant number of black CAO candidates with curricula vitae indicating a stronger career path than “fired after four months as an assistant city manager in Walla Walla, Washington.” Even by the standard of excluding other racial categories from consideration for this hire it would seem this is an underwhelming choice.

Much less that Broome might have sought to follow in her predecessor Kip Holden’s path of hiring a CAO like Daniel; not only is Daniel white but he’s a moderate Republican with connections to the city’s business community. Holden insuring that business interests and the taxpaying class at least had some representation in his administration was at least partly to credit for his two landslide re-election victories. Broome goes to Walla Walla to find someone out of work with no constituency whatever in Baton Rouge.

Best and brightest this is not. It might be that Troy Bell is an uncut diamond of a civic administrator, but that’s not what the odds say. The odds say he’s being hired because he’s desperate for a job and will make a singularly loyal yes-man to the mayor.

All we can say is what’s most important in Baton Rouge right now isn’t who the CAO is. It’s who the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana will be. Here’s hoping that Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions appoint the dirtiest, nastiest, most ambitious and most ruthless sonofabitch on the whole planet for the job, because the indications are that Broome and the gang will keep that sonofabitch plenty busy.

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