FOULDS: Reviewing a job without Perks

Contrary to the belief of some, members of the Kamloops media community did not experience collective schadenfreude when, in a span of 72 hours, John Perks went from the celebratory high of being announced as the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce’s new executive director to the bleak low of having the job rescinded.

Perks is the 29-year-old former pastor who was hired to succeed former chamber executive director Deb McClelland. A storm of controversy arose the day after his hiring was announced when posts he shared on his personal Facebook page began circulating online.

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The posts he shared (and, by sharing, endorsed) labelled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau an “idiot,” questioned whether climate change is real, denigrated Muslims and opined that pro-choicers should be made to watch an abortion procedure.

And there are so many more.

While the vast majority of those commenting on the Facebook page of KTW were understandably upset with Perks’ shared posts, a minority dismissed the news stories as nothing more than a leftist media attacking a man for his right wing viewpoints.

This would have been an equally newsworthy story had this been five years ago and a chamber-hired executive director used social media to insult then-prime minister Stephen Harper, criticize Christians and post vile memes attacking pro-lifers.

This is not about right versus left or conservative versus liberal.

Nor is this about whether one agrees or disagrees with the posts Perks shared. This is about a person hired to lead a business organization that represents a rainbow of beliefs, a person expected to liaise with a wide range of people with an equally wide range of beliefs.

Nor did the media set out to tarnish Perk’s reputation, as claimed by another online commenter.

Perks did that all by himself by sharing posts that are without a doubt offensive and not being social-media savvy enough to keep them from probing eyes.

The media, in this case, did its job, bringing to a wider audience something that was already being discussed online — the issue of the chamber hiring as an executive director someone whose views, based on Facebook posts, are controversial, to say the least.

How anybody cannot see how Perks’ shared Facebook posts would impact his role as chamber executive director is mind-boggling. Equally dumbfounding is how Perks was hired if those doing the hiring were aware of the posts.

If the chamber hiring committee was aware Perks shared those posts, how on earth did their existence not set off multiple alarms and raise a flurry of red flags?

When asked if he saw the posts in question before Perks was hired, chamber president Joshua Knaak told KTW: “We saw enough of his social media. We saw enough of him so that we were confident in the person that we got.”

(If the most controversial posts were not seen by the hiring committee, then the focus should be on the third-party company hired to do the vetting.)

I feel for Perks. I truly do.

He moved all the way to Kamloops from Ontario and was expecting to begin a new job this week. He has a girlfriend and a newborn baby.

He applied for the job. He was vetted. His posts were known to exist by at least some of those at the chamber who hired him. The posts then reached the public and, predictably, all hell breaks loose.

The question is less about whether Perks should have been hired in light of the posts (he should not have been) and more about the processes (or lack thereof) at the chamber that allowed Perks to be hired with the associated baggage.

If nothing else, this weird three-day affair should guarantee an improved hiring process down at the chamber.

And it should serve as a reminder that your online life is inextricably linked to your real life.
Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

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