Hopewell City Council Members disagree on City Manager search

The following is a story from Craig Phillips at the Progress Index.  He reported on the debate in Hopewell over the search for a new city manager. The search appears to be causing tension.

“The Hopewell City Council have begun interviewing for the City Manager position currently being filled by interim City Manager Charles Dane. But selecting a new city manager has sparked further debate among an already contentious council.

Mark Haley who retired September 1, 2017, had given notice in May of this year.

Six months after Haley’s notice the council is beginning city manager interviews. Filling this key leadership role is not the only challenge facing council. The group still needs to deal with pending CAFR issues, finding a Finance Director and a City Attorney.

While the process has already begun, there is disagreement on the method and personnel involved in the process. Some councilors feel the city human resources department, city attorney or others should be more involved while other councilors are comfortable with the primary support provided by the city clerk and the method being use.

Mayor Jackie Shornak has expressed concerns over the hiring process.

“There basically wasn’t a process in the beginning,” said Shornak. “Neither the city human resources department or city attorney was involved at the start,” she said.

Shornak said that council had a special meeting to review applications and each councilor picked and chose who they wanted to interview. Shornak said that the city clerk and councilors were the only ones in the interviews. She said no distinct criteria guidelines were set.

“Going forward my concerns are that we use the same process for each candidate and we make sure that any type of employee or state employment laws are adhered to. Even though I have a legal background I am concerned because, personally I do not know all the employment laws and felt uncomfortable that we did not have someone thoroughly knowledgeable in that area assisting us.”

Councilor Brenda Pelham feels the selection method is appropriate.

“People need to understand that we do not have to have human resources involved,” said Pelham. “To my recollection the city attorney gave us legal advice that the way we are processing through our city clerk was not against any legal requirements.”

Pelham said the council received guidance from Human Resources for the interviews. She went on to explain that the resumes came into the city clerk and that she may have done some screening, but that all councilors were afforded the opportunity to see all the resumes.

Pelham is also comfortable with the city clerk’s role in the selection process.

“I trust her judgement in those initial screenings,” said Pelham. She said the city attorney was in the closed session where planning the selection process was discussed, however he was not in the actual interviews. “He knew our process and he didn’t object,” said Pelham.

Councilor Christian Luman-Bailey believes the process is legal but could be improved.

“I think we could be doing it more efficiently,” said Luman-Bailey.

Luman-Bailey said there are a lot of candidates being interviewed. She felt that having a process of narrowing them down prior to the interviews would have streamlined council’s efforts. Luman-Bailey also felt the human resources department should have been involved earlier.

“The clerk herself indicated she would have been happy to have them (HR) involved from the beginning, so I think we should have had them involved earlier,” said Luman-Bailey. “Now that we are involving HR I believe it is a relief for the clerk. It will aid in the overall process,” she said.

Councilor Janice Denton is more comfortable with the current direction.

“I’m ok with the process now,” said Denton. “I felt a little out of step with the process at first since it was my first time. We have trouble at council meetings working together. I just didn’t know how we would do this by ourselves. I was relieved when we brought HR into the situation. I was dealing with something I was not trained in.”

Denton said the city clerk has enough on her plate and doesn’t need to be taken away from her day to day work for this.” Read the rest of the story on the Progress Index’s page.

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