Senator questioned the qualifications of a woman recently hired as a top tobacco-control official accused of Iowa and director of public health in preventing state laws regulating its recruitment to the controversial meeting on Friday.
Megan O’Brien was hired as the administrator of the tobacco prevention and control of earlier this month after an informal search process. Meeting on Friday of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Commission, which oversees the division, was her first official performance in this role.
State Senator Herman Quirmbach, Ames Democrat and non-voting member of the committee, opened the meeting criticized the hiring of O’Brien. Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks is authorized to appoint the division administrator, but state law requires the commission to recommend candidates for the assessment work and consultation with the public health director for hire.
The Commission was not able to adequately consider the applicants for this position, Quirmbach argued, and the preliminary recommendation of two members of the committee suggest that another candidate will be chosen not taken into account Miller-Meeks.
“The final choice (about who to work) to the Director, it is clear under the code” Quirmbach said. “But this commission was not given the opportunity to fulfill their legal responsibility, and I fault the director of the Department of Health on this issue.”
In a later interview, Quirmbach is how hiring is played, “shows the weakness of their own skills, Miller-Meeks” management. “
Miller-Meeks, however, said that she consulted with the office of State Attorney General, and received assurances that the process that led to the hiring O’Brien followed state law. It provided an opportunity for committee members to meet candidates before the appointment, in fact, were “too generous”.
“This process has been guided by the Attorney General’s office, and we followed the recommendations were in accordance with the statute,” she said.
The administrator position came open this spring, when the Interim Director Aaron Swanson left for another job. Several people have filed, two of which - including O’Brien - were selected as finalists in the Miller-Meeks. Commission Chairman and Vice-President met with both candidates and recommend finalists to hire another, but none of the candidates have been officially verified by the commission as a whole.
Miller-Meeks has officially hired O’Brien about two weeks ago.
During the process by which O’Brien was hired, Quirmbach also questioned her qualifications for the top job in the department. She has no management experience and a slight retreat in the tobacco policy and public health, he said.
Not everyone, however, share a concern Quirmbach.
A commission member Thomas A. Greene said that the extent to which the senator suggested that the Commission should be involved amounted to “micro” and that he was comfortable with the process of hiring Miller-Meeks. “Chad Jensen, member of the committee also advocated hiring O’Brien.
The discussion ended with a plan for members of the Commission in accordance with the Office of the Attorney General to discuss the requirements under state law for the assessment and the expectations set for O’Brien.
Quirmbach and Miller-Meeks previously fought for anti-tobacco activities of the state. Last year, the director, resigned after the Miller-Meeks said her position was cut due to budget cuts. Quirmbach is characterized by care in the shooting and accused Miller-Meeks of seking to “dissolve” the division.
O’Brien worked at the department for several months. In his opening comments, she acknowledged her ignorance of the specifics of the tobacco policy, but promised her skills and experience may increase the political experience already in place.
“I do not expect that I have done everything to earn the respect and trust again, but I expect that I will,” she said. “At the same time, I hope, will be treated with some professional ethics, as well as be able to perform these duties.”