a lesson in optics

**UPDATE:
after his first unbelievable hire, it gets worse. he has since fired the executive assistant for the mayor’s office, lynn clark, without warning, and replaced her with another campaign staffer. it’s only a temp placement, but, still. either he’s not trying or doesn’t know how to play the political game.**

a lesson in optics:

it’s one thing to run a business.

it is quite another to run a city.

mayor bennett is learning this the hard way, it seems.

sure, when you run a business, you have the ability to hire whomever you choose. while many people would recommend due diligence — an open and fair hiring process, a search committee to find the most suitable candidate, an interview process to explore options — there is no obligation to perform it. this is particularly true in a sole proprietorship or partnership model of business.

and while mayor bennett does have experience in the non-profit and political worlds — he chaired the Greater Peterborough Business Development Centre and the Greater Peterborough Community Futures Development Corporation, helped found the Market Hall Fundaising Committee, and sat on the Board of Governors at Trent University — he is primarily a business person. his is a family-run business that is under no obligation to offer public transparency, inclusivity, or accountability.

by all accounts, he is most successful at what he does in the business world.

unfortunately, the role of mayor is quite different than that of business owner. unlike a business owner, a politician is publicly accountable for his professional actions. a politician is accountable to each and every one of his constituents. a politician, and particularly a mayor, is a public figure who must perform the duties of his office in a fair and balanced manner. this means upholding fair, inclusive, transparent practices.

a mayor cannot run a city like a business. it’s not the way it works.

it’s odd that mayor bennett didn’t use the experience he surely garnered in his non-profit and political roles when deciding on the creation of a new administrative assistant position for council. doubly so when he decided to appoint close friend and campaign manager, david goyette, for the position without any form of open competition or due diligence.

any one of his volunteer positions would surely have introduced him to concepts of public accountability. any one of these experiences should have given him a background in the roles and responsibilities of public servitude.

and yet, bennett went forward in his own way. he conducted city business as he would his own private one.

this means one of two things: either he learned nothing in his previous public workings, or he is choosing to ignore the responsibilities of public office. neither concept seems palatable.

one thing is certain: he is definitely learning a lesson in optics.

one of the things that i repeatedly tell my clients is that you have to be open and honest in your dealings. you have to be comfortable that your decisions will look as good in the media as they do in the boardroom. you have to understand that the optics of your decision have to be as strong as the decision itself.

bennett must understand by now that his first decisions as mayor of peterborough are not playing out well publicly. and that poor decision making — and poor presentation of these decisions — have put him in a very negative light in the very early days of his mayorship.

it will be interesting to see how he responds to the criticism aimed his way. it will be interesting to see if he is as capable of being as strong a politician as he is a business person.

some recent coverage and commentary of goyette’s hiring can be found here:

peterborough examiner, article #1.
peterborough examiner article #2.
peterborough this week, article #1.
peterborough examiner opinion piece.

i’d love other links to coverage of this story — either from big media or from blogs. please include them in the comments section and i’ll list them here.

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