In defense of team players in executive appointments

The question in Gov. Nathan Deal’s recent appointment of a new Chairman of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources was not whether Warren Budd is a mainstream Republican or a good guy. I trust he is both. The question is who best is able to implement Gov. Deal’s policies as the next board member. That question can only be answered by Gov. Deal and he has determined that Mr. Budd is not the best person to implement the Governor’s policies.

The Department of Natural Resources is an executive agency of state government and is overseen by an eighteen-member board appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Georgia’s constitution vests responsibility for the exercise of executive powers in the Governor. When Georgians elect a Governor, they expect that the executive agencies will reflect the priorities the Governor has outlined; to do less would be to abdicate the power that our constitution places in the office.

If there were any expectation that the Board should be independent of the Governor’s policies, there are ways to implement an independent Board. But currently, the DNR Board clearly is setup as an extension of the Governor’s executive policymaking structure.

Gov. Deal has been urging action on a new reservoir system for well over a year and made it clear in the 2010 campaign that development of reservoirs would be a priority of his administration. Moving this initiative forward requires two things: cooperation of the General Assembly, and a DNR Board that shares the Governor’s policy preferences. At this point, a prospective DNR Board Chair who opposes the Governor’s primary policy preference as far as it relates to DNR’s mission is a hindrance to our government working the way the framers of our constitution intended.

A legacy member of any board appointed by a previous Governor should not expect to be reappointed as of right, or because the board’s internal rules mean that it is his turn to take the chairmanship. A member in such a situation should examine whether his policy preferences are compatible with those of the new occupant of the office and if there is a significant difference of opinion, should accept that his reappointment is unlikely.

The other side of the coin is Gov. Deal’s relationship with the Georgia General Assembly, which appears to be much more deferential to legislative prerogative than some predecessors have been. Other Governors have at times seemed to treat the legislative branch of government as an extension of the executive and sought to exert their will on the General Assembly. Deal has refrained from heavy-handedness in dealing with legislators, and has said that it is not his habit to comment publicly on pending legislation. While he has stated on several occasions whether he would be willing to sign certain bills and has offered comments to some legislators on bills they sought to pass, Deal has notably been willing to let the legislature be the legislature.

While I personally disagree with some of the recommendations of the Water Supply Task Force that Gov. Deal hopes to implement, I also accept that it was he who was elected Governor and not me. I also understand that executive appointments are made in furtherance of the policies the Governor was elected to pursue. To suggest other than that he should appoint people who share his policy preferences is to somehow suggest that either appointed board members have some right to be reappointed, even if they are ideologically incompatible with the Governor who appoints them, or that somehow agencies of state government clearly executive in nature should not be subject to the Constitutional responsibilities exercised by the Governor.

19 comments

  1. seekingtounderstand says:

    Every wondered who owns the land around the Glades Farm Reservoir in Hall County. Ever looked at the project management escalation of the costs so far………
    Glades has it in their contract that this lake will never go down lower than 10 ft level. And there are no plans for pump stations or any pipes to ever use this water. Yet Hall County has spent and spent and spent on Ceder and Glades Reservoirs. Taxpayers have been milked I should say.
    This is about developing lake property while taxpayers foot the bill and lining the pockets of consultants.
    Expect this story to be front page news on the AJC one day.

    • Todd Rehm says:

      Please explain what you’re talking about and tell me why it means that Atlanta doesn’t have a need for major improvements in our drinking water supply and transportation system.

  2. CobbGOPer says:

    “…I also accept that it was he who was elected Governor and not me…”

    Todd, you would make a better governor than Shady Deal any day of the week, sober or drunk.

    And I don’t disagree with your premise, I just don’t trust Deal for anything. His intentions may be completely legitimate and innocent, but when his attack puppy Robinson comes out and says basically “get in line or [expletive deleted] off,” it casts a different light on his possible motives.

    Of course, we’ll never know what his real motives are since he gutted the ethics commission.

    Nathan Deal: Huey P. Long ain’t got [expletive deleted] on me!

    • Todd Rehm says:

      Here are a couple of facts for you, wrapped up in some opinions. And I am flattered in your trust, but I would be a disaster as Governor, Lt. Gov. or any other job with real responsibilities.

      First, it is my strongly held belief that “I don’t like/trust that guy” is not a good reason to monkey with the rules or structure of government. We’ve got a pretty good system that’s designed to withstand the occasional fool or crook, or even a preponderance of both. Don’t mess with it lest you meet the business end of the rule of unintended consequences. I believe that whether we’re talking about Roy Barnes, Sonny Perdue, Nathan Deal, Casey Cagle, or whomever.

      There are worse things than a legislative body failing to pass substantive laws as long as they passed the budget. In fact, I think we could use a little more failing to legislate by bodies across the nation.

      Second, neither the Governor nor his staff is responsible for “gutting” the ethics commission. In fact, the Commission would have been able to withstand a modest 7% budget cut if it were not for a minor change made in one of the legislative ethics committees at the request of one of the “watchdog” agencies. The request was to require registered mail for notice of complaints, late fees, etc. That minor change, along with the dramatic increase in responsibilities when non-state level offices were required to file at the Ethics Commission were what broke the camel’s back, not a 7% budget cut.

      Go back and watch my interview with Josh Belinfante. He talks about it there.

      Related to that is that the Ethics Commission was probably structured incorrectly anyway, if two people without computer services backgrounds accounted for more than 50% of the salary of an agency whose major responsibility is actually running a secure and sophisticated financial filing database system online.

      That’s more important in our scheme of “transparency” as the Speaker likes to call it than lawyers. The fact that the ethics commission’s disclosure system has been a clusterduck since the additional filers were added proves that not enough attention and resources were devoted to the Commission’s real job number one, which is in fact, running a website.

      Third, you may not like Brian Robinson’s personal style, and that’s fine. Maybe he enjoys parts of his job too much, and what he did with Fox5 is not something I agree with. But I’ve been treated the exact same way by the staff in the House Communications Office, and the staff in the Gov’s press office has treated me in a professional manner. The fact that you don’t like the way he does his job doesn’t mean that the entire administration is filled with crooks.

    • Todd Rehm says:

      I’m getting nothing.

      I will be doing an interview with the Gov. in a few days for which I will expend considerable time and energy as well as a few bucks for parking. Nobody’s paying me or giving me anything for that either. You should see it here on Peach Pundit.

      I had requested the interview before the New Year and when I read Charlie’s post earlier, I thought I’d probably never hear back on it. I started writing this post before leaving for a late lunch.

      While at lunch I received an email saying the Gov would do the interview along with some scheduling information. During the exchange of emails about logistics neither I nor the press office mentioned anything about Charlie’s post and I didn’t mention that I was writing in response. I expect they’ll offer me a coke or bottled water when I do the interview; if I’m thirsty I’ll accept.

      When I got home from lunch, I finished writing and set it to publish for six o’clock.

      We are forbidden by editorial policy from writing in exchange for anything, and if we write about anything in which we have a financial interest, we must disclose that interest.

      Any more questions?

  3. greencracker says:

    Ethics could maybe withstand the budget cut — maybe not, beats me. But I submit that it’s difficult for an agency that changes leadership with often-ness.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    Beg to differ. There’s no need for a Board if it’s simply to rubberstamp the Governor’s policies. There’s a Commissioner and staff that report to the Governor that can do that without the bother of a Board.

    • Todd Rehm says:

      I think the role of the Board is to decide how best to implement the Governor’s policies. Otherwise, there would be members who were something other than Gubernatorial appointees. The Boards oversee the employees to ensure that they adhere to the Governor’s policy, not to substitute their own judgment.

      A Governor would be free, of course, to appoint Board members with the expectation that they exercise independent judgment, but he is by no means required to do so.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        There’s no disputing that it’s the Governor’s perogative to appoint who he sees fit, and its common that new Governor’s make new appointments that may reshape a Board. (And so I’m clear here, I generally support new reservoris.)

        It’s a generally accepted understanding that Boards are in place to set policy, not manage employees.

        The first bullet in the Vision portion of the DNR’s Mission Statement (link below): “The Georgia Department of Natural Resources will be widely recognized as a public agency that listens carefully and responds to the opinions of the people it serves to provide a balance of all factors.”

        http://www.gadnr.org/mission?cat=inside_dnr

        The first two sentences from the DNR Board webpage (easy to reach from link above): “The Board of Natural Resources consists of 18 citizens appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Georgia Senate. The Board is responsible for setting rules and regulations ranging from air and water quality to hunting seasons and provides input into issues such as the agency’s budget recommendations and legislative initiatives.”

        The word “Governor” doesn’t appear in the DNR’s mission statement. Other than mention of Gubenatorial appointment, the word doesn’t appear on the DNR Board page. Perhaps the Board can make itself useful by rewriting the mission statement and their webpage.

        A bunch of yes-men isn’t likely to contribute much, so their function is largely extra government or the seat serving as a reward for campaign support, things I thought you would find objectionable.

        • Todd Rehm says:

          Dave, maybe you should run for Governor on your radical notions.

          Mission statements actually mean something? Really? They trump the Georgia Constitution?

          • Dave Bearse says:

            Tood, I don’t know how much you’re kidding, of if you’re kidding at all, because of the medium we’re in.

            Vision statements? Of course they mean something. (The DNR’s vision statement is included with its mission statement, and that’s what I cited.) A vision statement is the organization identifying what it wants to be.

            As to the Georgia Constitution, I know little more than the average educated adult Georgian, which isn’t much. Using the “find” tool, I located only two references to “natural resources” within the Georgia Consitution: http://sos.georgia.gov/elections/GAConstitution.pdf To wit:

            ARTICLE III. LEGISLATIVE BRANCH SECTION VI. EXERCISE OF POWERS
            Paragraph II. Specific powers. (a ) Without limitation of the powers granted under Paragraph I, the General Assembly shall have the power to provide by law for:
            (1) Restrictions upon land use in order to protect and preserve the natural resources, environment, and vital areas of this state.

            and

            ARTICLE VI. CONSTITUTIONAL BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
            SECTION VI. BOARD OF NATURAL RESOURCES
            Paragraph I. Board of Natural Resources. (a ) There shall be a Board of Natural Resources which shall consist of one member from each congressional district in the state and five members from the state at large, one of whom must be from one of the following named counties: Chatham , Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh , Glynn, or Camden. All members shall be appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate. The members of the board in office on June 30, 1983, shall serve out the remainder of their respective terms. As each term of office expires, the Governor shall appoint a successor as herein provided. All such terms of members shall be for seven years. Members shall serve until their successors are appointed and qualified. Insofar as it is practicable, the members of the board shall be representative of all areas and functions encompassed within the Department of Natural Resources.
            (b) The board shall have such powers and duties as provided by law.
            .
            .
            I wasn’t being sarcastic when I commented on a post a couple of weeks ago that you were a smart guy. For clarification, I meant smart as in intellligent. Would you kindly identify how a mission/vision statement “trump[s] the Constitution”? It would be especially generous of you to provide me an O.C.G.A. citiation concerning a statutory responsibility that the Board implement Gubenatorial policy.

            Statute or not, I think state Boards have an ethical (beyond a legal if applicable) responsibility to the people of Georgia to identify their own mission/vision, and aspire to it. Like I said, the DNR Board could make itself useful by rewriting its mission/vision.

            • Todd Rehm says:

              Dave-

              You make some good points, which I intend to address, just not right now. I’ve got a very full day today, so please don’t take the fact that I’m unlikely to not deal with them until later to mean that I’m ignoring your comment.

              • Dave Bearse says:

                I was anticipating making the comment that we’d bear this to death for the time being in event you had rebutted.

                Maybe save it for a new thread. This one’s getting old enough that I can’t guarantee I’ll revisit it, and I don’t want you to waste good effort.

  5. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Like many politicians, Nathan Deal may not exactly be an angel when it comes to ethics, but he gained a helluva of a lot of my respect and admiration when he pulled the plug on that horrific Public-Private I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor HOT Lane Project that would have tied the state’s hands for at least 60 years.

    • Todd Rehm says:

      Unless a Governor, or anyone else who makes appointments, is simply selling the board seats, it’s not an ethics issue, it’s a management issue.

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