Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966




If Bill Musser works out as chief of the Haines Borough Police Department, it will be despite the borough’s hiring process, not because of it. The borough assembly Tuesday endorsed interim manager Julie Cozzi’s recommendation to hire Musser on a 5-1 vote.

“There’s no harm in trying,” Cozzi said.

Let’s review. Former chief Gary Lowe was shown to the door in mid-April, after staff would no longer tolerate his abuse.

The assembly chose against hiring a recruitment firm to help with the hire and instead advertised the job on some websites, attracting only four applicants by an August deadline.

The borough readvertised the job, netting 16 applicants, which former manager Mark Earnest narrowed to four finalists.

Of the four, only Simon Ford survived a series of background checks. Earnest left town. The job of hiring a chief fell to Julie Cozzi.

Cozzi picked up Earnest’s list of discards and chose seven to review again. After those reviews, Musser, Richard Crays, and Simon Ford remained.

Ford removed himself from the list of finalists.

Crays and Musser were interviewed, via Skype, multiple times by Cozzi or assistant Darsie Culbeck. But when Crays and Musser came to town at the borough’s expense, no in-person interviews were conducted. Although some residents and borough officials met with Crays and Musser, some assembly members never met either one of them.

Crays appeared to be the top candidate until he exploded with a series of critical emails about the assembly. Crays’ outburst suggested a temper issue that may have been overlooked by a company hired by the borough to conduct background checks on finalists.

This week, Cozzi recommended Musser, a candidate who engendered little support from police officers during his visit. In an interview with the CVN, Musser gave a questionable explanation of why he resigned as chief in Meridian, Idaho, a job he held for four years after serving on the force there 20 years. The Mayor of Meridian isn’t talking.

The hires of Musser and Lowe share a striking similarity: Neither candidate was interviewed in person before being offered the job.

Musser is effectively our sixth choice from a relatively meager list of candidates for one of our community’s most important positions.

Assembly members could have hired a recruiting firm, but decided that more than $20,000 was too much to pay. Instead they chose to roll the dice. Their gamble may pay off. Musser might make a good chief.

If he’s not, we’ll have learned that when it comes to finding the right people for the borough’s top jobs, you get what you pay for.

-- Tom Morphet