November 6 – 12 is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

Today’s news revolves around animal shelters in municipalities across the country.

Dallas County, Texas (population 2,368,139): Testimony is under way in the trial of a former Dallas animal shelter manager accused of animal cruelty after he ignored an employee’s pleas to rescue a cat that was stuck inside a wall. The cat eventually died. Shelter employee Kimberly Killebrew testified this morning that she asked the city’s shelter manager, Tyrone McGill, multiple times about freeing the cat stuck in the wall in May 2010. Each time, McGill, 61, told her it would be taken care of, Killebrew told jurors. When Killebrew told McGill again about the cat, she testified that they needed blueprints and that they had “protocol to follow” before rescuing the cat. The cat could be heard for more than a week meowing and scratching at the bottom of a wall near a break room and bathrooms. The cat’s meows were “real distinct, real stressed,” Killebrew said. The cat’s meows grew weaker, she said. But it was not removed until more than a week later when it died and began to smell. Dallas County prosecutors David Alex and Brandon Birmingham said in opening arguments said that McGill threatened the jobs of anyone who cut the cat out of the wall because it would be destroying city property, adding that McGill had removed ceiling tiles because he thought the cat could climb out. McGill’s attorneys did not make an opening statement. On cross examination of Killebrew, McGill’s attorney Anthony Lyons questioned her about city rules that prohibit destroying city property without permission and why she didn’t rescue the cat. Killebrew said that she couldn’t without calling to get approval and it was not within her authority to make those calls. She instead repeatedly asked McGill about removing the cat. To remove the dead cat, the city cut a hole in the wall. A photo of the wall shows the hole was not much bigger than a plate that covers an electrical outlet. McGill faces up to two years in a state jail if convicted.

Employees first heard the cat crying and scratching inside the wall on May 3, 2010. They asked McGill and other supervisors what to do about it, court record show. The following day, shelter employee Kimberly Killebrew asked McGill again about freeing the cat, and McGill said he would take care of it. Employees heard the scratching ad crying for several days. By May 8, the cat was still moving inside the wall but it no longer cried. When asked about about the cat. McGill told Killebrew that ceiling tiles had been removed to allow the cat to get out, records show. The next day, McGill said the shelter would not cut the wall to remove the cat. Only when the cat died and the stench became unbearable was the wall cut, records show. McGill “accepted responsibility and indicated he would take care of the problem and permitted the cat to die in a cruel manner,” according to court records. Read more at The Dallas Morning News.

Des Moines, Iowa (population 203,433): Des Moines streets could have fewer animal control officers and residents might be called on to take strays to shelters under one city budget cut scenario that became public on Wednesday. The Animal Rescue League of Iowa — Des Moines’ contractor for animal control and shelter services — has been asked to cut nearly $450,000 a year from its budget, according to an email the organization sent to supporters on Wednesday. That’s more than half of the $868,000 a year the city pays the rescue league to provide animal control and shelter services. Rescue league leaders say a cut that steep would leave Des Moines with no animal control officers on its streets to respond to calls about stray cats and dogs and other animal safety, neglect and welfare problems. Instead, Des Moines residents would be relied on to bring stray animals to the shelter during shorter business hours. City Manager Rick Clark said that local officials are in the early stages of trying to figure out how to fill a $7.7 million budget hole over the next two years. It is too soon to know what programs and services are at greatest risk of cuts, including animal control, he said. Animal control services come out of the Police Department’s budget. As police look for ways to reduce expenses, it makes sense to consider a range of cuts, including animal control, Clark said. An email sent Wednesday to rescue league supporters urged them to ask city leaders to make zero cuts to an “already lean animal control budget.” Tom Colvin, the league’s executive director, said he appreciates the city’s budget challenges and he is not trying to fear-monger. He wants the public to understand the implications for public safety and animal welfare if such a large budget cut becomes reality, he said. The league has provided the city with stray animal shelter services since 2005. The nonprofit humane organization took over the city’s animal control program in 2009. At the time, city officials projected the move would save about $74,000 a year. The rescue league’s three-year contract with the city expires June 30. League officials had asked for a 1.8 percent annual increase in the contract to help pay for cost of living increases for animal control personnel. City Councilwoman Christine Hensley said residents should reserve judgment until formal budget proposals are submitted to the council. In 2010, rescue league officials responded to 12,579 animal calls in Des Moines — an average of about 36 per day. Those calls ranged from cases of neglect to reports of dangerous animals running loose to calls for assistance from police. The league has begun to make headway on a lot of the animal control problems Des Moines has seen in recent years, Colvin said. The rescue league has five Des Moines animal control officers. Cutting the budget by nearly $450,000 would mean zero animal control officers, Colvin said. A cut of $300,000 would enable it to employ two officers. City and rescue league officials met on Oct. 20 to discuss the proposed budget cuts, Colvin said. When the rescue league contracted with the city in 2009 to provide animal control services, it did so to help save taxpayers money, Colvin said. Read more at The Des Moines Register.

Racine County, Wisconsin (population 195,408): All area municipalities have soundly rejected Racine’s nearly $6 million animal control startup proposal, leaving the city to provide the service on its own. Racine officials presented the $5.9 million proposal — for basic shelter startup and equipment — in late July to area municipalities after Countryside Humane Society announced last year it will no longer offer animal control services starting in 2013.  Now, a few months later, the city is left looking at an approximately $4 million startup plan on its own after other municipalities opted out. Other municipal leaders said the cost was the biggest factor in their decisions. City Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox, who is heading the animal control startup efforts, said the only option left is to build a new shelter in the city and hire appropriate staff because there are no existing shelters within city boundaries for use. Animal control services currently offered by Countryside for about $192,000 this year, which the city’s proposal would assume, include: picking up strays, handling bite cases, responding to animal emergencies, assisting police and fire, issuing municipal citations and investigating complaints and reports of abuse and neglect. To do that Bowersox said the initial startup, including the new facility, property and equipment, would be about $4 million in addition to $650,000 total operational and personnel costs annually. She emphasized those are “comprehensive” figures so there aren’t any surprises later. The 10,000-square-foot facility would only be able to handle the city’s estimated 1,318 animals annually. A 15,000-square-foot structure was originally proposed to handle the county’s estimated 2,200 animals. So if other municipalities want to bring their strays in down the line, Bowersox said, “we’d only have so much space.” Bowersox said the city is slightly behind its original timeline but hoped to still be able to begin construction in March. During a presentation to City Council members at a Committee of the Whole meeting last week, Bowersox explained the need for an animal control plan, even though state statutes don’t necessarily require it. There is no state law that municipalities need to do animal control, she said, but statutory requirements do kick in once animals are actually picked up — like keeping them for seven days in appropriate conditions. City officials say animal control is important for both animals and the public. There is an average of 150 bite cases in the city every year with animal control in place, Bowersox said Friday. If city discontinued doing animal control, she warned those cases would escalate and there would be more traffic incidents with increased strays as well as issues with feral cats, packs of dogs roaming the streets, feces and animal population control. Caledonia Village President Ron Coutts said the proposed cost, about $105,000 for the village in 2013, was the biggest deterrent. He said the village is currently in talks with Mount Pleasant and Sturtevant among others. Municipal leaders agreed cost was the biggest factor. Saying it’s still early yet, they hoped to have more definitive animal control options in 2012. Read more at The Journal Times.

Sutter County, California (population 94,737): The new Sutter County Animal Shelter could open as early as January 2013, says Yuba City City Manager Steve Jepsen. Sutter County, Yuba City and Live Oak are finalizing their joint exercise of powers agreement for a new shelter on Live Oak Boulevard this month with the goal to break ground in January and open the following year. Sutter County will consider adoption of the agreement Tuesday. Yuba City and Live Oak are expected to follow suit at their meetings the following week. Talk about the need for a new shelter has labored for years, but a renewed emphasis started this spring after a grand jury report recommended the Sheriff’s Department investigate the shelter for possible violations of state law. The jury called the shelter filthy and cited a severe rat infestation, but the department concluded in September that high rates of illness and death among animals did not reflect criminal behavior or neglect on the part of employees or management. Nearly all the facility and procedure issues identified in the grand jury report have been resolved, said Randy Cagle, assistant community services director. Dogs and cats are vaccinated upon intake, most permeable surfaces have been sealed and there are new dog kennels and new hygiene and sanitation procedures. A consultant was hired for $9,000 to examine the shelter and is expected to submit a review of the changes in the coming weeks. The cats also have new cages with partitions to improve sanitation and cleaning ease and have solid metal sides to minimize transmission of air flow and illness. On Friday, 21 cats were lounging in their six condo towers, as they are known, some perching on shelves, others curled on bedding and one enigmatically dozing in his litter box. The old cat cages are in a new trailer in a room with impermeable walls and floors that will soon house kittens. A washing machine and dryer hummed in the adjacent room as the commercial dishwasher washed dishes — all major sanitation improvements. Though the 25-year-old facility has been upgraded, it’s exciting to finally have a new one on the horizon, Cagle said. Immediate, necessary improvements to the existing shelter cost $140,000, of which $31,000 will be recaptured through improvements that can be utilized at the new location, such as the cat condos and commercial washer and dryer set. The new facility cost is capped at $4.5 million with Yuba City paying $3 million. Overhead will be limited to 10 percent and workers compensation to 5 percent of payroll. Sutter County will remain the lead agency through the design and construction of the facility, and then Yuba City will take the lead. Yuba City expects to dramatically reduce costs under its leadership, Jepsen said. The shelter’s net budget under Sutter County peaked at $1.058 million in 2009-10 and has since dropped to $884,000 this year, he said. When Yuba City is the lead agency, it is projecting an annual budget of $784,000, with changes in administrative costs and workers compensation. Overhead costs are projected at $76,000, compared to $231,000 in 2010-11 under Sutter County. Those costs were reduced by more than $100,000 for this year’s budget. Within the agreement, each agency will have a weighted vote based on funding with a major majority required to act on budget or policy issues. Yuba City will pay 66 percent of the cost of its operations for the next two years, based on the 2009 census, but there will be a future discussion about adjusting cost for time and distance traveled. The three jurisdictions have hailed the pending agreement as a testimony to government cooperation. Read more at the Appeal-Democrat.

Alameda, California (population 73,812): After 126 years, the city of Alameda is giving up the animal rescue business. Faced with a severe financial crisis, the city will hand its animal shelter to a stalwart group of volunteers, officials announced Tuesday. Several city employees who work in the shelter will lose their jobs, and the police department will halve its animal control enforcement staff. The shelter typically gets 1,400 animals per year. The changes will help the city save more than $600,000 a year – a significant chunk of the $4.4 million it needs to cut from its general fund next year. The city will pay Friends of Alameda Animal Shelter $300,000 a year to run a facility that now costs the city $935,000 annually. Volunteers will feed animals, clean cages, walk dogs and oversee adoptions and licensing. The volunteers will contract with local veterinarians and the East Bay SPCA for spay, neuter and euthanasia. Police will take calls on animal abuse, vicious animals or other animal-related complaints. Officials and volunteers said they are thrilled with the 15-year contract, which they described as a sound solution to a difficult problem. The alternative, they said, was to contract with a neighboring city for animal shelter services. The cost would be less – about $250,000 a year – but Alameda residents would have to drive to Hayward, Fremont or beyond to find a lost cat or drop off a stray dog. Alameda’s savings might be other cities’ headaches, though. Staff members at neighboring city shelters fear they may be forced to pick up the slack for Alameda’s reduced animal services. Friends of Alameda Animal Shelter said they hope to equal, and even surpass, the services the city has been providing since 1885. They plan to hire eight full- and part-time workers and rely on 100 or so volunteers to expand the shelter hours. Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Long Beach, New York (population 33,275): Animal rescue organization Rescue Ink and Long Beach City officials celebrated the opening of the Long Beach Animal Shelter on Sunday. The facility, which was closed five years ago, will now be operated by the “rebels with a cause” group of bikers who are best known from the television program of the same name on the National Geographic Channel. Rescue Ink has a $15,000 contract to run the shelter for one year, staff the facility and work in cooperation with the City’s Animal Control office. The recently rehabilitated building is located at 77 Park Place in Long Beach. Read more at the Long Beach News.

Marion County, South Carolina (population 33,062): With the possibility of losing control of the Marion County Animal Shelter staring it in the face, Paws to the Rescue took a step back from its request for increased county funding for the facility Monday. As a result, it appears the nonprofit group will continue to operate the county’s only animal shelter for at least another year. Paws to the Rescue’s request for an increase of $22,000 per year for shelter operations raised some eyebrows in the Marion County Administrative Building. Such an increase — the current budget for the shelter is just $53,000 a year — seemed beyond the means of a financially-strapped county and caused some to wonder if the county would be better off resuming control of the center itself. Marion County Administrator Tim Harper recommended just that to council last week. Faced with that prospect, however, Paws to the Rescue Excutive Director Jen Nall told a county council subcommittee Monday that the proposed increase wasn’t a requirement for her group’s ongoing participation in shelter operations. She said the rescue could live with the current funding, although it would like to see a commitment to a 3- to 5-percent increase each year in that budget. Committee members seemed pleased with Nall’s willingness to continue with what it receives, but couldn’t guarantee the increase. After hearing from Nall on Monday, Harper withdrew his recommendation and said if Paws to the Rescue is willing to continue at its current rate, he’ll recommend the county offer it a new contract through the end of the current fiscal year (June 2012). Paws to the Rescue’s current three-year contract expired last month. Paws to the Rescue took control of the shelter in October 2008 in an agreement with council to improve the care of animals at the shelter. The agreement was for Paws to the Rescue to receive $4,400 per month from the county while the county would continue to be responsible for liability, insurance and utilities of the facility. The committee said it also wants the rescue to submit an audit to the council at the beginning of a new fiscal year. After that, it will be able to ask for an increase when next year’s is drawn up instead of during the middle of a fiscal year. Nall said after the meeting she willing to accept the contract if council approves the committee’s recommendation at the full council meeting, set for Tuesday. The rescue has significantly reduced the shelter’s euthanization rate, which was at 58 percent before it took over and is now down to 29 percent. Paws to the Rescue doesn’t depend on the county alone for funding; it also accepts donations. This year, the group brought in nearly $200,000, much of it from animal lovers from far away who’d heard about the center’s many needs. The donations cover food, vaccinations, vet visits, cleaning supplies, building improvements and more. Nall estimates the annual cost of keeping the shelter running is around $250,000. Still more help could be on the way. The current drive for a countywide penny sales tax could go to help the shelter. A new shelter is one of the many items on a list of projects the new tax could help fund. A decision hasn’t been made on whether to pursue the penny tax. The tax would have a set time limit — seven years — and would require the approval of the county’s citizens through a referendum. Read more at SCNow.

Bolivar, Missouri (population 10,325): Fur is flying as a tale of two animal pounds unfolds in Bolivar. Former employees of the Bolivar City Animal Pound and volunteers with animal rescue organizations say that what once was a smooth-running operation that kept nearly all animals from being euthanized is no longer providing a humane environment for animals and making it more difficult for animals to be saved from being euthanized. But a recent inspection of the pound by the Missouri Department of Agriculture resulted in just three findings that have been corrected, and Bolivar’s city administrator said little has changed in the euthanization and adoption rates at the pound. Marion Rutledge, former manager of the pound, says she was pleased with how few animals were having to be euthanized at the city’s kill facility. The euthanization rate of animals was 2.8 percent in 2010, down from 22 percent in 2008. Using contacts at animal rescue facilities across the country, and with the help of Brenda Closser, who coordinates the transfer of pound animals to rescue organizations, 268 animals — 42 percent of those that went through the shelter in 2010 — were sent to rescue facilities or no-kill shelters.  Rutledge said what she considered to be the pound’s success started to change this spring just a few months after Michael Jones was hired as the city’s animal control officer. She and former pound employee Chris McKinney both report incidents when they say Jones abused animals at the pound and made it more difficult for them to do their jobs. The situation became much more tense for Rutledge in June when she said City Administrator Ron Mersch told her that animals should be euthanized after the required five-day holding period. Though Rutledge and Closser had been coordinating animal transfers to other shelters and rescue organizations, it is impossible to do that in five days, Rutledge said, especially when the rescue organizations are out of state. She said this did not become an issue until after Jones was hired. Mersch said that conversation about needing to euthanize some animals after five days was the result of a rising animal population at the pound. At the time, Mersch told the BH-FP that too much taxpayers’ money was being spent housing animals until they could be taken to rescue organizations. But Rutledge said the 71 animals that had been transferred to rescue organizations up to that point in the year cost the city $1,300 to care for, while euthanizing those animals would have cost $3,000, and she supplied that information to city administration. Rutledge said she was told the city could not complete paperwork for rescue organizations, though Rutledge said the only paperwork she was doing was the transfer paperwork required by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Rutledge said that then the signed paperwork the rescue organizations had to return to the pound quit arriving in the mail, and she said the mail she picked up at Bolivar City Hall had been opened — with paperwork missing. Mersch said that much of the mail that arrives at city hall is opened in the clerk’s office, to the dislike of other city employees, too. Rutledge resigned from the city in August, saying she “was not willing to work there in those circumstances.” After Rutledge’s resignation, Mersch put Jones in charge of the pound with part-time laborers to do most of the day-to-day work under Jones’ supervision. McKinney began as a part-time laborer at the pound in November 2010 and worked under Jones’ supervision for about a month before he no longer was employed by the city. He said he was fired three days after submitting a letter to Mersch with concerns he had about pound operations that could cause liability issues for the city. Read more at the Bolivar Herald-Free Press.

Delta, Colorado (population 8,915): If negotiations are successful, the City of Delta animal shelter will soon be operated by CAWS, or Citizens for Animal Welfare and Shelter. The animal welfare organization is based in the North Fork Valley. In the meantime, Delta Police Department officers are dealing with reports of vicious dogs, but there’s no animal control officer to respond to reports of loose dogs, barking animals, or nuisance cats or dogs. The animal shelter is being operated in a very limited capacity with two part-time shelter technicians. This state of affairs brought several animal lovers to the Delta City Council meeting Oct. 18. Fran Goetz questioned why the city can support the golf course, but have no funds for animal control. Instead, city officials expect animal welfare non-profits to handle stray and abandoned animals. Debbie Faulkner of Crawford said the Black Canyon Animal Sanctuary is getting “20 calls a day” from residents, with over half coming from Delta citizens. More animals are being dumped than ever before, she added. This activity is “rampant” because people seem to think they won’t get in trouble if there’s no animal control officer on the job. Both she and Goetz said the abandoned animals pose a community health risk which increases liability for the city. Chris Miller attended the meeting to invite council members to a RSVP volunteer recognition ceremony but took the opportunity to express her concerns about safety and nuisances caused by animals running at large. The decision to reduce animal control is largely due to budget constraints, Delta Police Chief Robert Thomas said shortly after the services were “drastically” curtailed in the spring. Thomas said his priority is keeping police officers on the street, a direction which has the endorsement of city manager Joe Kerby. At a budget work session preceding the city council meeting on Oct. 18, Chief Thomas expanded on animal control operations. Actual expenditures for animal control were $85,940 in 2010, and are estimated at $53,940 in 2011. With the support of CAWS, Thomas said he expects 2012 expenditures to drop even more, to $47,264. His goal is to apply the savings towards additional patrol officers. He also believes animal control demands a regional solution. CAWS proposes to assume the cost of one of the shelter’s two part-time technicians; the other will remain with the City of Delta and, after training, will enforce the city’s animal control ordinances. Hopefully the training will be completed in late November or early December, Thomas said. JoAnn Kalenak, who has been representing CAWS during the lengthy negotiations with the city, planned to make a presentation to city council Nov. 1. She said CAWS hopes to spend several months “shadowing” city staff. CAWS also needs several months to build a volunteer base, raise donations and pursue grant funds. At the Nov. 1 meeting, city council members had an opportunity to review CAWS’s budget. Read more at the Delta County Independent.

Transitions: Spartanburg County, SC; Santa Maria, CA; Stephens County, GA and more

Spartanburg County, South Carolina (population 284,307): The interim administrator of Spartanburg County resigned over the weekend. Nelso Marchioli held the post for only two months. He is the former Denny’s president and CEO. He filled the position left by Glenn Breed, who abruptly resigned in April. According to councilwoman Jane Hall, Marchioli made a personal decision to leave the job. Jim Hipp, deputy administrator, will take over the job, while county officials search for a permanent replacement. Read more at WSPA.

Santa Maria, California (population 99,553): For Rick Haydon, the move to becoming Santa Maria’s new city manager isn’t a big one — it’s just down the hall to the right. The 49-year-old Haydon, assistant city manager for the past 11 years, was chosen by the Santa Maria City Council this week to replace Tim Ness as Santa Maria’s top administrator when Ness retires Dec. 30. Ness, whose retirement was announced Tuesday, has been the city’s top administrator since 1995, and prior to that served as deputy city manager. Ness is among several city officials to announce recently that they are leaving. Larry Lavagnino said  Oct. 3 he wouldn’t seek another term as mayor in the 2012 election; Fire Chief Jeff Jones last week announced he would be retiring Dec. 19; and Chief Deputy City Clerk Pat Perez will be stepping down Dec. 16. All this means that when Santa Maria administrative staff returns from its New Year’s break, Haydon will have a new office. Ness’s retirement was informally announced at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. The council made the decision to select Haydon in closed session later that night. Haydon earned a bachelor’s degree at Fresno State University and a master’s in public administration at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He has worked as a management analyst in Fresno and a financial analyst in the San Joaquin Valley town of Dinuba, where he also served as the budget and employee-relations manager, a job he currently handles in Santa Maria. Haydon also worked as a grants administrator and special projects manager for the Monterey-Salinas Transit District, and later served as business manager for the Monterey Police Department. He came to Santa Maria in 1996, when he was hired as assistant to the city manager and was promoted to his current position four years later. Haydon will inherit a city that has faced four straight years of declining revenues and increasing expenses because of state budget cutbacks. As the man who delivers the city’s budget report to the City Council each year, he’s well aware of its financial condition. Haydon will be just the third city manager in Santa Maria in the past 23 years. Wayne Schwammel served from 1989 to 1994. Ness took over in 1995, and Haydon will move into the office on New Year’s Eve. Read more at the Lompoc Record.

Stephens County, Georgia (population 26,175): John Rutan has resigned as Stephens County administrator. Rutan made his resignation public Friday, and it took effect Friday. He said he has communicated with the County Board of Commissioners. Rutan said he does not have another job lined up at this time. He did say he would like to move toward an engineering position. He was hired in April 2008 as Stephens County administrator. He said it has been a great learning experience, as well as an eye-opening one. Rutan cited working with employees and getting a lot done with limited funding as two of the things he is proud of regarding his time as administrator. He described the people working in Stephens County government as wonderful. Rutan was a solid waste director, geographic information systems coordinator and surveyor for Henry County, Ga., between 1984 and 1997. In 1998, he was a plan reviewer for Fulton County. From 1998 until he was hired as Stephens County administrator, he managed projects, such as some involving roads and rezoning activities, for a number of firms. No announcement had been made as of Friday evening about selection of an interim administrator. Stephens County commissioners are set to meet starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the historic county courthouse in Toccoa. Read more at the Independent Mail.

Perrysburg, Ohio (population 20,623): Perrysburg city administrator John Alexander said he plans to step down from his post on June 1, 2012. Mr. Alexander, 63, has been city administrator since January, 2005. An attorney, he said he is leaving so he can spend more time practicing law and working on research and writing projects on public policy. The city is expected to begin searching for Mr. Alexander’s replacement early next month and assemble a list of applicants by mid-January. Mr. Alexander was previously the Lucas County administrator. His past jobs also include the chief of staff for the commissioners and former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, and public safety director for the city of Toledo during the 1990s. Read more at the Toledo Blade.

West St. Paul, Minnesota (population 19,540): The West St. Paul City Council accepted an early retirement agreement with City Manager John Remkus at a special meeting Tuesday. Remkus was not present for the meeting, but had previously signed the agreement, which the council accepted in a swift, 10-minute meeting. Assistant City Manager Sherrie Le, who now moves into the role of acting city manager with Remkus’ departure, said Remkus — who is currently on vacation — had been mulling over the idea of early retirement for a while. Le said even though the city appointed her as acting city manager, the council will still be going through a search process to find a full-time city manager. Le, who is also still serving as the assistant city manager, human resources director and golf course manager, said she wouldn’t “completely rule out” applying for the full-time city manager position, but it “hadn’t been (her) plan.” Le said the city has been offering an early retirement package to its employees, but none of them had taken the option until Remkus decided to do so. Remkus, who is in his 60s, was hired by former city manager Tom Hoban in 1981 as the city’s finance director. He served the city in that capacity until 2008, when City Manager Arbon Hairston left suddenly. Read more at the Southwest Review News.

Leander, Texas (population 15,705): Leander’s City Council voted tonight to hire Kent Cagle as the city’s new manager, filling on a permanent basis the position that opened unexpectedly this year after former City Manager Biff Johnson died of a heart attack. Cagle, who was not able to make it to the meeting Thursday night, said he was excited to be moving to a community with “explosive growth in its future.” Cagle has been the city manager of Duncanville, a town of more than 38,000 south of Dallas, since 2001 . He replaces Robert Powers, Leander’s finance director, who had been serving as interim city manager since Johnson died in March. Cagle’s salary was set at $180,000. His contract includes a car allowance of $650 and a phone allowance of $150. Johnson was paid a salary of $184,425 when he held the position. He had a car allowance of $800 a month and a phone allowance of $200 a month, both after taxes. In his time as interim city manager, Powers received a salary of $160,000 and a car allowance of $400 a month. Powers’ phone was provided by the city. Cagle, who has a master’s degree in public administration from Texas Tech University, worked as an administrative analyst in Lubbock and a senior budget analyst in Plano, and served as the director of budget and risk management for the city of Carrollton before moving to Duncanville in 1997. He began his tenure in Duncanville as assistant city manager. Cagle’s current salary is $176,345 , and Duncanville gives him a $650 per month car allowance , and a $40 a month phone allowance. The City of Duncanville had no complaints against Cagle on file. Cagle was picked from a group of five candidates the city named earlier this month: Elizabeth Grindstaff, an assistant city manager in San Angelo; Susan Thorpe, a deputy city manager in Peoria, Ariz., David Vela, an assistant city manager in Abilene; and Greg Vick, the interim city manager of Elgin, were also considered for the job. Cagle, who grew up in Sonora, said the Hill Country feels like home and that Leander’s school district was a big pull because he has three children. Read more at The Statesman.

Bellmead, Texas (population 9,042): According to Mayor Joshua Collier, City Manager Victor Pena has decided to resign after a five or six month disagreement with the city council. Collier says council members have been unhappy with the direction Pena is leading Bellmead, and that’s why they have scheduled a special meeting Monday to address his resignation. Collier says the council will work out a severance deal that would include keeping Pena around for another three months as a consultant for the many city projects he was actively involved in. Another item on the agenda will be to discuss hiring the Texas First Group to find an interim city manager.  The council is hoping the company can find a retired or experienced former official to be their new city manager. Pena was elected city manager in October of 2009. The special council meeting will be Monday, October 24 at 5:30. Read more at KXXV.

Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona (population 8,819): Two former city managers interviewed before the Dewey-Humboldt Town Council in a special session meeting Wednesday, and the council offered Jim Rumpeltes the job of interim town manager. Rumpeltes brings 30 years of experience to the job and an interesting background with the City of Surprise where he was city manager from 2003 to 2007. In response to a question from Councilwoman Nancy Wright about how he would handle ethical issues on the part of council members, Rumpeltes said near the end of his time with Surprise, he turned in to the Attorney General’s Office several council members for violations on legal and ethical issues. Councilman John Dibble said the D-H council has had some rough times and perhaps a poor reputation, and asked if Rumpeltes was prepared to tackle the job. In addition to manager and two years as assistant manager for Surprise, Rumpeltes worked for 15 years as county administrator for Clallam County, Wash., and seven years with Spokane County as budget director. Prior to that he was a Vista Volunteer in East Los Angeles for a year. He’s been active in the United Way, Rotary Club and YMCA. Rumpeltes said his management style is open with no surprises. He likes to go over expectations and keep everyone up to speed, and said his door is always open. During the interview, he handed council members a three-point plan of action for the next two months before Yvonne Kimball begins in January. The town has offered Kimball a contract and is waiting her approval and signature. First on the list is to help council fill vacant positions. He also will keep in regular communication with the mayor and council, including a weekly email on Fridays he calls “Things You Need to Know.” Lastly, he will help prepare for the start of the new town manager with a list of issues and loose ends, scheduled meetings for the first week, and getting keys and business cards. Interim Public Management offered the town two candidates to consider. The town also interviewed Cynthia Seelhammer, who council members said also was well qualified for the job. Rumpeltes starts work on Monday. Read more at The Daily Courier.

Flora, Illinois (population 4,665): Monday afternoon’s Flora City Council meeting had the City see the end of a long search for a City Administrator end with Randy Bukas being sworn into the position. The decision to hire Bukas was approved by a unanimous vote. He will be paid $750,00 [sic] a year, plus vacation time and benefits. Read more at The Clay County Advocate-Press.

Highwood, Illinois (population 3,675): The city of Highwood announced Friday that Scott Hartman will take over the daily operations of the city on Monday morning as the community’s new city manager. Consulting Interim Manager Kenneth Marabella has held the post since June, when the city parted ways with former manager Greg Jackson. Hartman was among 40 applicants, reported Mayor Charlie Pecaro, adding that his display of energy and patience secured the job after aldermen conducted two rounds of interviews with finalists. Hartman also brings more than 15 years of municipal management experience, including former roles as village manager of Pingree Grove in Kane County and city administrator of Marengo, in McHenry County. Both towns are about the size of Highwood, Pecaro said, and offer similar council-manager governing structures. Hartman’s experience focused on community and economic development, financial management, labor and service contract negotiations and strategic planning, according to the Highwood news release. The City Council unanimously confirmed the hire Tuesday night. Read more at the Highland Park News.

Leland, North Carolina (population 3,243): The Leland Town Council on Thursday appointed a new town manager. David Hollis was announced at Thursday night’s meeting as the town’s new top administrator. He will replace retiring manager Bill Farris. Farris is set to leave the town position in December. Hollis is slated to start working in November so there will be a transition period. The move to appoint Hollis, however, was not without complaints. The motion, approved 4-1, was met with stark opposition by Barnes. Barnes said council members were to only interview four candidates, but instead called in two more candidates after one had to take care of a family matter. That should have left three candidates to be interviewed, he said. But Councilwoman Pat Batleman said Barnes was not there for the entire interview process. Barnes said he only left after he found out about the addition. He said he left because the move to add a fifth candidate frustrated him. Batleman contested and said there were five candidates the whole time. At the end of the meeting, Barnes met with Hollis. “I don’t have a problem with you, I just have a problem with the procedure,” he said and shook Hollis’ hand. Read more at the Star News.

Wilmington, Vermont (population 2,086): As the town attempts to rebuild following the historic flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene, the Selectboard will also have to find a new town manager. After serving six months as Wilmington Town manager, Selectboard members accepted Fred Ventresco’s resignation Thursday. Thomas Consolino, chair of the Wilmington town Selectboard, said the town manager didn’t see the job as a good fit and Ventresco was not comfortable with the position. He said Ventresco started as Wilmington Town Manager in April and resigned Oct. 13. Consolino said they are looking for a replacement for the town manager. James Burke, member of the Wilmington Selectboard, said members of the board will have done research and possibly have an interim town manager selected by Oct. 18. Before Ventresco accepted the position, Fire Chief Ken March served as the town manager, who was appointed by the Selectboard following the resignation of Bob Rusten, who accepted a position as assistant city manager of South Burlington. Read more in the Brattleboro Reformer.

Transitions: Brentwood, CA; Eureka, MO; Reedsburg, WI and more

Brentwood, California (population 51,481): Although Donna Landeros was known for her sound fiscal judgment during the nearly seven years she served as Brentwood’s city manager, her heart remains in parks and recreation, where she started her career in government 41 years ago. In her final days as city manager last week, Landeros savored the progress on the Civic Center under construction adjacent to her office. She was thrilled about the fountain that was being installed, but one of her favorite elements of the plaza in front of the new building is the children’s water play area. She even gave up a portion of her office for it to be built.

Landeros is retiring to spend more time with her husband in their Lake Tahoe home. Landeros leaves Brentwood after leading it through a period as one of the fastest-growing cities in the state before the housing collapse saddled it with plummeting home values and a rash of foreclosures. But Brentwood weathered the downturn better than many other fast-growing communities, which some have attributed to the city’s sound fiscal management under Landeros, 62.

Landeros had never visited Brentwood before she applied for the city manager position seven years ago. Her perception of the community has not changed much since then. The City Council was equally impressed with Landeros’ experience. Former Brentwood Mayor Brian Swisher said Landeros, who was previously city manager in Ventura, prepared the city for the then-unknown economic downturn and pointed out areas of concern with the city’s finances at a time when the economy was still strong.

Landeros, who is being replaced by Assistant City Manager Paul Eldredge, said guiding the city’s budget policy through the recession and keeping the city fiscally sound was her greatest challenge. This summer, the Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury applauded Brentwood for its fiscal management, calling it a model for other cities. Landeros and Director of Finance Pam Ehler worked on a 10-year fiscal forecast, quickly becoming strong working partners and friends. With Ehler focusing on the details, Landeros said she liked the fiscal policy piece of the project. Landeros’ problem-solving and listening skills, combined with a good sense of humor, allowed her to build a productive team at City Hall, according to Director of Parks and Recreation Craig Bronzan. Landeros also built relationships with other local agencies, including the city’s two school districts and neighboring communities. Liberty Union High School District Superintendent Eric Volta said Landeros always had the best interests of the city in mind and cooperated with other agencies.

Landeros started her civic career working in parks and recreation for Los Angeles County. She went to Butte County and worked on budgets there, and later became the Yolo County administrator. Before coming to Brentwood, Landeros was the first permanent female city manager in Ventura County. When Landeros arrived in Ventura, she worked to implement the city’s downtown plan, which it had just adopted. Landeros said she saw the potential in Brentwood for downtown revitalization. She believes the new Civic Center, which was opposed by some in the city as unnecessary and too costly, will be a key piece because it was designed for the city’s ultimate build-out. Read more at the Mercury News.

Eureka, Missouri (population 10,701): Melissa Brown’s first few weeks as Eureka city-administrator-in-waiting have been a learning experience. But thanks to her experience in the business world, she might be able to teach municipal governments a few things, too. Prior to arriving in Eureka, where she began work Aug. 15, Brown demonstrated industriousness in other, seemingly divergent fields. The 1994 graduate of East Peoria Community High School spent five years in media and marketing with The Nielsen Co. – the fabled corporation that tracks ratings for television programs. Brown went from the Dakotas to Tennessee and everywhere in between as she visited homes and explained to selected TV viewers their roles in Nielsen’s media studies. The Nielsen job came after five years spent at Brown & Williamson, a tobacco company. Brown negotiated contracts between retailers and her half-namesake employer. Before all that, and after her 1998 graduation from the University of Illinois, Brown was a social worker for Catholic Social Services in Peoria. In those previous jobs, communication abilities were a necessity, Brown said. That’s part of what Brown believes she can do for Eureka in her new role, which involves supervising city personnel, consulting with Mayor Scott Punke and the City Council and implementing their policies. Management skills Brown acquired at her previous jobs also have helped her in this one, she said. She was responsible for hiring and training immediate subordinates. Brown’s lack of a local-government background doesn’t appear to be an issue in Eureka. Once the training wheels are gone, Brown plans to focus on commercial development and growth in the city, as well as finding a balance between providing day-to-day services and meeting long-term goals. Read more at the Peoria Journal Star.

Reedsburg, Wisconsin (population 10,014): John Dougherty no longer is Reedsburg’s city administrator. Dougherty, who was hired in August 2008, has not been performing up to Common Council expectations after multiple performance reviews, Mayor Dave Estes said. On Monday, during a closed session of the Common Council, members voted, 6-3, to let him go effective today. Dougherty told the Times-Press on Friday that he would be looking for another position and refused to comment further. He will receive 180 days of severance pay, or about $40,000. Dougherty is leaving a little less than one year before his four-year contract expires, Estes said. At $80,000 per year plus benefits, he was one of the highest-paid city officials in 2011, second only to the police chief. Dougherty’s performance reviews from February 2010 and February 2011 show he had ongoing issues both with the Council and department heads dating back to 2009. The February 2011 review for 2010 shows that instead of getting better, Dougherty’s issues with city staff worsened. It also states that he engaged in what some city staff considered unethical conduct by trying to use his influence to change accident reports and threatening to disband a department during union negotiations. Read more at the Reedsburg Time-Press.

Holbrook, Massachusetts (population 9,644): Former Quincy mayor William J. Phelan has been offered the position of town administrator in Holbrook, but his contract hinges on whether he and the Board of Selectmen can agree on how Phelan, a lawyer with a practice in Quincy, will divide his time. Phelan intends to continue practicing law, as he has since March, when he began serving as Holbrook’s interim town administrator. The selectmen are willing to allow him flexible hours, but some have questioned whether Phelan can predict what hours he will spend in town. The board wants Phelan to post some or all of his hours a week in advance, so Town Hall employees and the public know when they can find him. During deliberations on Tuesday, they could not agree on how many hours he should post. The board voted, 5 to 0, to appoint Phelan. At the close of the meeting, he left the room quietly. He initially declined comment, but when pressed on the issue of posting hours, he said the town “definitely deserves accountability.’’ Selectmen lauded Phelan for his hard work as the interim administrator, his experience running a city of more than 92,000, and his knowledge of state government. Phelan was elected mayor of Quincy in 2001, lost the seat to Thomas P. Koch in 2007, then tried unsuccessfully to regain the seat in 2009. Contract negotiations are expected to begin this week. Town Meeting appropriated a salary of $76,400 for this fiscal year. Read more at The Boston Globe.

Kingston, Massachusetts (population 5,774): Jim Thomas is set to begin duties as Kingston’s new town manager on Nov. 1. Thomas, the town manager in West Warwick, R.I., has signed a contract, the terms of which are not being released until after selectmen sign the hard copy. The board voted unanimously to offer him the job last week. A reception for the public to welcome him to Kingston will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, prior to the board meeting at 7 p.m. Thomas said he’s excited about the new opportunity in Kingston and was pleased with the unanimous vote. Selectmen interviewed Thomas twice. After the first interview, three board members said they were ready to vote. At a second interview last Thursday, the board asked him about a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him and other officials in a town in Colorado that ended with an order for the plaintiff to pay the defendants’ legal fees. The board also asked about another town’s decision to rescind an employment offer after a change in the composition of the board, an accusation by a comedian that Thomas made derogatory remarks about women involved in a Girls Behaving Badly event at Maine bar, and Thomas’ decision to not accept a job offer in Ohio. Thomas said he wasn’t offended by the questions and welcomed the opportunity to clear the air. Another finalist Troy Clarkson, the town manager in Bridgewater, withdrew from consideration, citing a desire to remain in Bridgewater, the board said. A third finalist, Carter Terenzini, the town administrator in Moultonborough, N.H., did not have a second interview. Read more at the Patriot Ledger.

Belton, South Carolina (population 4,219): The spotlight will be on Michelle Ricketson when she makes her public debut Tuesday as Belton’s new city administrator. Ricketson was hired last month to replace former city administrator David Watson, who retired in July after nine years on the job. Like Watson, who previously served as Anderson County’s administrator, Ricketson has an extensive background in county government. Ricketson was working as the county’s community relations director until her position was eliminated in a belt-tightening move in July. Ricketson, who will earn $48,000 annually as Belton’s city administrator, will start work today, Mayor Rufus Callaham said. She then will attend her first council meeting since taking the job on Tuesday. Read more at the Independent Mail.

Standish, Michigan (population 1,536): Standish’s new part-time interim city manager now has a contract. The Standish City Council voted unanimously to approve Curt Hillman’s contract Thursday, Sept. 29. According to the contract Hillman agreed to, Hillman will receive $1,555.11 per month over the next nine and a half months. Mayor Mark Winslow said the rate is based upon what was left over in the city’s line item budget after former city manager Mike Moran vacated the position. Hillman’s contract will last until the end of the city’s fiscal year, which ends in June 2012. Winslow said the city is pleased with the way things have been going since Hillman took over the position at the beginning of September. Winslow said hiring a full-time city manager is not the best option for the city at this time, even though a number of candidates have submitted their resumes. Winslow told the council that Hillman has done a good job since taking over. Read more at the Arenac County Independent.

Betterton, Maryland (population 471): Jannice Edwards, circuit rider town manager, submitted her resignation at the Tuesday mayor and council meeting. Edwards, who succeeded Dave Teel at the end of February, said in e-mail that she was leaving the position to spend more time with her family. There has been no word on a replacement. Read more at The Star Democrat.

Transparency: When should the identities of applicants for public employment be disclosed?

“The position is not designed to be a political position.” –Jefferson County, Alabama, Commissioner George Bowman

Florida has some of the most extensive “sunshine” laws in the country. Personnel records are open to public inspection unless exempted by law, including applications for employment, grievance records, resumes, salary information, and travel vouchers. If a public agency uses a private recruitment company to conduct an employment search for the agency, records made or received by the private company in connection with the search are public records. Florida courts have rejected claims that constitutional privacy interests operate to shield agency personnel records from disclosure, holding that the state constitution “does not provide a right of privacy in public records” and that a state or federal right of disclosural privacy does not exist. Read more at Government in the Sunshine.

In Michigan, information about a person being considered as a finalist for a high level public position is not of a “personal nature” for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) privacy exemption. Once the list of candidates has been narrowed to those persons to be interviewed, the applicant’s right of privacy is outweighed by the public’s interest in knowing the applicants’ qualifications. Redaction can be used to separate confidential information from non-private information. Read more on the Michigan Attorney General’s site.

North Carolina courts, on the other hand, have held that the public does not have a right of access to know the names of candidates for public positions, even when the employing agency has narrowed to a short list of candidates under consideration. Public bodies must make hiring decisions in an open session, and therefore the public has a right of access to the meeting at which a vote is taken to hire a particular person. But the names of other candidates will forever remain secret. Read more at North Carolina Media Law.

Jefferson County, Alabama (population 658,466): The state Legislature passed a law in 2009 that mandated the county commission hire a county manager by April 1, 2011. In early 2011, the county hired Dallas-based Waters Consulting Group, a national search firm that specializes in recruiting city and county managers, to find qualified candidates. In March, lawmakers extended the deadline to June 1 to give the commission more time to find the best candidates.

On April 25, 2011, Jefferson County officials announced the selection of three finalists, selected from an initial field of 56 applicants, for the county’s first professional manager. County Commission President David Carrington identified two of the candidates. The third candidate asked that his name be withheld until next week because he had not yet notified his commissioners of his selection as a finalist. Each candidate was interviewed May 5-6 by the five commissioners. Hiring one of the finalists requires approval of four commissioners. Read more at al.com.

On May 8, a second finalist withdrew from the selection process. On May 11, 2011, a majority of Jefferson County Commissioners said that the remaining finalist to become the county’s first professional manager didn’t appear to have enough votes to be hired. At least two of the five commissioners said the county needs to ask a national search firm to come up with another slate of candidates. Commissioners, county department heads and other officials interviewed Patrick Thompson for the county manager’s job. Thompson is former county administrator for Hamilton County, Ohio, which contains Cincinnati. The following day, Thompson met with board members of the Birmingham Business Alliance, the sheriff’s office and county lawyers.

Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said the county needs more time to be deliberative, and Commissioner George Bowman said he wants more candidates to consider. Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said he thinks the jury is out on whether Thompson has enough votes, but he would like to give Thompson a chance at winning the job. Carrington said he’ll poll the commission Friday, and if Thompson has the votes for the job he’ll have a public discussion and official vote. If not, Thompson will be informed. State law gives the commission another 120 days to look for another candidate if one did not get a supermajority of commission votes by June 1. Brown said the county may need additional time to hire the right person. Read more at al.com.

On May 13, the last remaining finalist for Jefferson County’s first professional manager removed his name from consideration.

By September 13, 2011, a decision on whether to hire Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos as Jefferson County’s first professional manager was delayed after two commissioners refused to support the nomination. Commissioners Sandra Little Brown and George Bowman both said they didn’t oppose Petelos but questioned how the matter had been handled by Commission President David Carrington.

A resolution to put Petelos’ nomination to a vote of the commission unanimously passed the county’s administrative services committee, but some commissioners said later it was being rushed. No one raised concerns during the committee meeting, in which Petelos was interviewed for nearly an hour by all five commissioners, Carrington said. Bowman, who seconded the Petelos nomination in committee, said he changed his mind “in retrospect.”

The Alabama Legislature has given the commission an Oct. 1 deadline for making an offer to a prospective county manager. Carrington said he believes that could be extended by another 120 days if a selection is not made in the next three weeks. It’s unclear whether Petelos will have a supermajority by then. Brown and Bowman said many concerns remain. Read more at al.com.

Just this morning, the Jefferson County Commission unanimously selected Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos this morning to become Jefferson County’s first professional manager. The vote was taken without discussion or debate. Petelos will begin county manager duties Monday at a salary of $224,000. Read more at al.com.

Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (population 320,918): Manager matters dominated a June 2011 meeting of the Luzerne County home rule transition committee. After a debate, the committee approved an advertisement for county manager candidates, but might later reopen the subject of whether and when to reveal their names. Members differed on whether disclosing all the applicants’ names would be in the interest of transparency for the taxpayers or would scare away the best candidates. The vote was 4-2 with Rick Morelli and Chairman Jim Bobeck opposing to approve the advertisement with language by Susan Shoval, which says, “Position finalists must be willing to allow public disclosure of their resumes in order to move forward with the process.”

Shoval said she believed disclosing all candidates’ names would eliminate a lot of good ones, but that finalists must be willing to have their names released, as is done with college presidents, for example. On the other hand, Morelli felt transparency is the best policy. Bobeck opposed because he didn’t like the idea of disclosing names. Committee members were apprehensive because there were initially only six at Thursday’s meeting.

Before the committee’s discussion, several residents spoke against advertising the names of county manager candidates. Ray Gustave of West Wyoming said while he is an advocate of openness in government, he didn’t think the committee would get top-tier candidates who are willing to jeopardize their jobs in this economic climate. Ed Chesnovitch also opposed publicizing the names, saying it could lead to a lawsuit. Gene Keller of Dallas Township agreed, saying a headhunter told him at least 60 percent of the best candidates will not apply if their names are disclosed. Read more at The Standard Speaker.

Florence County, South Carolina (population 136,885): Florence County’s search for a new administrator, to replace Richard Starks who is retiring at the end of his contract this fall, has been more confusing and secretive than such searches often are because of the presence of Florence County Council Chairman K.G. “Rusty” Smith Jr. as a candidate for the post — the only announced candidate for it to date.

The candidacy of a sitting council member would complicate the issue, no matter who he or she was. South Carolina and local law don’t really address the idea, except by prohibiting it in a simultaneous instance, but it clearly fogs up the ethical windows because the selecting body (county council) includes a potential candidate. The situation is made still more complex by the persona of Smith, a councilman since 1986 and the powerful chairman of that body for almost a decade.

What does the county administrator do? He or she manages Florence County government and its almost $50 million a year budget. An administrator works with the elected officials of the county to help make sure the policy they dictate — theoretically, the will of the people — is executed in an efficient, and fiscally prudent way, by the county’s many departments and divisions.

Who is supposed to hire the administrator? The county council is delegated this responsibility. It’s the only position in county government the council hires solely and directly. That’s fairly standard practice across the state.

What are the job requirements? This would vary from county to county, but typically administrators have public administration degrees and some significant experience with budgets and accounting.

How is the decision being made here? A committee appointed by Smith is in charge of sorting through candidates and making a formal recommendation to council which will then make the final decision. That’s the public version, anyway.

Does the law allow Smith, or any other council member, to be appointed to administrator, or any other county position? As we have reported in recent weeks, there is a difference of opinion in this area. We’re not lawyers, but it seems clear to us it’s illegal to hold both an elected and an appointed position (or two elected positions) at the same time. It’s also clear that it’s unethical for Smith, or anyone else, to be involved in making an appointment decision that could affect him. The problem there, of course, is discerning whether he was involved. Some might say, “Of course he was/is, even if he’s not on the committee,” but that’s going to be pretty hard to prove.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act requires county officials to reveal the identities, and some of the qualifications of, “not less than three” candidates for the post before a final decision is made. We delivered a Freedom of Information Act request to county officials several weeks ago, asking that all candidates be disclosed. That is allowed by the FOI Act, but it is not required.

Unfortunately, county officials have indicated they will provide only “discloseable information,” which shows a continued lack of transparency, and, in our opinion, a lack of understanding with regard to the FOI requirement. The county must disclose at least three candidates. It could disclose more.

We think it should do more to prevent the tainting of a critical decision on Florence County’s path to progress. Read more at SCnow.com.

St. Helena, California (population 5,814): The St. Helena City Council agreed on June 28, 2011, not to release the names of people who have applied for the city manager job, but denied rumors that councilmembers are working behind the scenes to support a local candidate. On the advice of City Attorney John Truxaw, the council turned down a request by attorney Lester Hardy to disclose the names of applicants for the job. Hardy initially asked for all applications for the city manager position. After Finance Director and Interim City Manager Karen Scalabrini objected on the grounds that making the names public could jeopardize the applicants’ current jobs, Hardy limited his request to applicants who are self-employed, retired or unemployed. Truxaw told the council that each application is confidential, regardless of the applicant’s employment status.

Truxaw said releasing any of the names would compromise the council’s right to consider the applications in closed session. Hardy said his request was prompted by rumors that there’s a “behind-the-scenes effort to promote one or more applicants for the job.” Mayor Del Britton insisted that the hiring process is “straightforward” and “fair and open.” He said the council hired a respected search firm, Bob Murray & Associates, to screen applicants and recommend top candidates based on their qualifications. The rumors about secret back-room deals “have no validity in fact whatsoever,” Britton said.

Councilmember Ann Nevero also denied the rumors. She said the search process is taking longer than she’d like, but the council is following it because “it’s what people want and it’s the right thing to do.” Read more at the Napa Valley Register.