Friday, February 03, 2023

EDITORIAL: Assessor: A lot of us got it wrong

| September 4, 2022 1:00 AM

Talk to anyone whose responsibilities include hiring people and, if they’re honest, they’ll admit that sometimes they get it wrong.

The task at hand then becomes how to make it right.

In the case of Bela Kovacs, a number of people got it wrong when he was appointed Kootenai County Assessor after the tragic death of Rich Houser in 2020.

The local Republican Party got it wrong, including Kovacs among three recommended replacements for Houser.

The County Commissioners got it wrong by selecting Kovacs from the three.

But those groups weren’t alone. Check out this endorsement:

“But among Bjorn Handeen, Roger Garlock and Bela Kovacs, Kovacs stood out. He's got extensive experience not just in real estate … but public service is in his blood. Kovacs, a longtime Coeur d'Alene resident, spent some 20 years in public administrative positions, including director of purchasing for Spokane County.

“With an equally impressive academic background that includes a degree in economics with a minor in math, Kovacs is ready for the daunting task at hand.”

That was written and published May 22, 2020, by the then-editor of this newspaper, who is also writing today’s editorial. Here and now, he admits he too was wrong.

The past two-plus years have proven that all these supporters of Kovacs were mistaken about his aptitude and attitude for the job.

Anyone coming into a complex, new administrative position needs time to learn and to build relationships with staff. But Kovacs has not learned, and he has destroyed relationships with competent employees who enjoyed working for his predecessors. Perhaps worst of all, he shrugs off responsibility and blames others, which is the clearest signal of poor leadership you can find.

Admitting mistakes is the first step in correcting them. Commissioners have done their part, cutting Kovacs’ pay in half in a move that looks very much like strong encouragement to resign.

If Kovacs stays the course, however, there’s one more chance to correct this mistake. Voters can write in Bob Scott in the Nov. 8 election. Scott’s chances would be boosted by a big push from local Republican officials, but in so doing, they’d have to admit that they, too, were wrong about Mr. Kovacs.

For the good of all Kootenai County residents, we hope they’re up to that task.

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