The hiring philosophy of Tribal Administrator Mike Rogers was never to post a position that he didn’t already have someone in mind for. Rogers had gone through great pains to organize a management and employee base that reflected his way of doing things, eliminating or sidelining all those who he viewed as outside this box.
In the interests of job security, he also catered exclusively to those in political power and treated “outsiders” accordingly; those who may not have voted a certain way or were potentially at odds with his interests, or had said or written something at General Council or to a Council member in session were not eligible for benefits or opportunities that were in Rogers’ power to deny. Tribal members who were not in favor with those in power for one reason or another, or just not to his liking, were equally ripe for exclusion, backlash, and lack of opportunity.
The hiring process was the key way that Rogers asserted his influenced and in most circumstances, he was able to hire who he wanted without the interference of policy, tribal preference, or merit-based considerations. When his good friend Scott Johnson applied for an open position at Shoalwater Bay, Mike Rogers would, under no circumstance, leave one of the most critical decisions then available in the hands of others.
Along with these considerations he was acutely aware that it was necessary to achieve the appearance of fair hiring practices based on merit, tribal policy, experience, and talent. Publicly the administration and a voting majority on Council claimed the hiring process for Chief of Police would be done in an above-board manner, and that it would not only be fair, but it would also be open and include several community members.
Council members Joel Blake and Lynn Clark were not convinced, both maintained a skeptical view about leaving the hiring process up to Mike Rogers, especially if he claimed a hands-off approach when it came to his friend Scott Johnson. Council as a whole distanced themselves from seriously questioning the ethics or actions of Rogers during this period, even after the Washington State Patrol contract was brought to their attention. Instead, the voting majority was firmly holding to Rogers’ story that he was in the same boat as they were and that Robin Souvenir was the one responsible for the WSP contract debacle.
In a December 10, 2018 interview Mike Rogers was adamant that the hiring process would be fair; going on to express unsolicited concern about the current “gossip” that he was going to make sure Scott Johnson would become the next Police Chief. This he said was not true because community members would be a fundamental part of the process. Rogers made it clear that his main concern overall was that the new Police Chief would not follow the “bad example” of Robin Souvenir, “who shows no respect or gratitude,” Rogers said, “for what the Tribe has done for him.”
As it turned out members of the hiring committee were hand-picked in a secretive way by Mike Rogers and Jesse Smith, and no one outside of their choices were given a chance to apply for committee positions. In this way, the administration could ensure that a significant majority of the hiring committee would make a predictable choice. Wild cards could easily be outvoted or misinformed of the outcome. Uncontent to leave a stacked deck to chance, HR and Rogers had organized the group as a blind committee who did not meet face to face and primarily served to choose the top few candidates, leaving Rogers and Jesse Smith to organize the rest.
Scott Johnson Hiring goes Awry
Just a matter of days before implementing a hiring decision for Chief of Police, Mike Rogers was pulled completely out of the equation. Strangely enough, in a move that is as baffling as it is audacious, Rogers had once again failed to inform Council of a matter that required Council knowledge and approval. In this case, a law firm was secretly hired on Rogers’ behalf to defend the Tribal Administrator in court.
After Council was informed about Rogers’ continuing efforts to leave them out of the loop, Tribal Council called a special Monday morning session to consider whether Mike Rogers should continue on as Tribal Administrator. Consensus did not go in his favor. On the following day, Tuesday, January 8, 2019, Rogers tendered his resignation.
Despite the change in administration leadership, the hiring process would move swiftly forward under the interim Tribal Administrator and CFO Larry Kerns. On the Friday, January 11, 2019, Council meeting Kerns assured community members that they would get a chance to meet and greet the finalists for Chief of Police. Kerns also assured tribal members that the administration would honor their commitments to consider community input. Few people at that time knew that Mike Rogers was not only on the hiring committee all along but remained intact, that is, until public outcry and claims of corrupt process changed the course of events.
“I have talked with Council,” wrote Larry Kerns on Monday, January 14, 2019, “so we will be advertising in the community for someone to replace Mike Rogers in the hiring process for the Police Chief.” On the same day that Council removed Rogers from the hiring committee HR Jesse Smith informed the tribal community on the Shoalwater Bay website that, “A hiring committee was being formed.” It was a misnomer that rang true to many because the process was so secretive few knew what was happening. Even many on the original committee were kept in the dark up until that point.
Interested tribal members for the newly opened position were given approximately three days notice to find out about and get in their applications for Council approval on that Friday, January 18, 2019 meeting. From that moment on the process became more open with face to face meetings replacing a much less transparent process that was carried out in secret. Despite the expedited time-frame, the new hiring process generally met conditions of fairness, transparency, and community input.
The former Sheriff of Pacific County was the strongest candidate imaginable even without the backing of Mike Rogers and his overblown maneuverings on behalf of his friend. This was especially true in the early days before much was known about Scott Johnson’s character. After Rogers’ exit Tribal Council and many community members became inundated with news of administration corruption and the dangers it had caused the tribe; few wanted more of the same.
As a consequence, Scott Johnson became a tarnished candidate. Under the new structure, the former Sheriff of Pacific County was plucked out of a finalist position. Additionally, Johnson failed to achieve a similar standing in a newly revamped and transparent hiring committee.