Thursday, June 15, 2006
Mayor, aldermen hash out hiring procedure
By BARRY BURLESON
Interviews are on go for Holly Springs police chief and utility department general manager after a sometimes heated discussion Tuesday night, June 6, between the mayor and board of aldermen about the application process.
Five or six candidates for each position are scheduled for interviews, which started Thursday of last week.
The discussion started when alderman Tim Liddy brought up the mayor’s veto of a motion passed unanimously May 16 by the board. On that night, alderman Nancy Hutchens made a motion, seconded by alderman Naylond Hayes, requiring Mayor Andre’ DeBerry to submit all copies of job applications for department heads one day after the deadline listed in the job description.
DeBerry said he felt the board, through its vote, infringed on his executive powers. He said the board is the legislative branch of government, passing policies and ordinances that govern the city, and the mayor and department heads are the executive branch.
“The board should not be involved in the day-to-day operation,” DeBerry said. “You’re not responsible for the operational control of the city.”
Liddy said the mayor did not need to exclude aldermen, if they wanted to see every application, particularly for something as important as utility manager.
“It’s not a question of importance,” DeBerry said. “It’s a question of procedure.”
Liddy asked, “We can’t look at applicants, unless a person is approved by you first?”
DeBerry said department heads are responsible for screening applicants for jobs in their departments, then they give suggestions to the board, and the board has final hiring authority.
“The mayor needs to be empowered to do the same with department heads,” DeBerry said. “I do not infringe on their responsibility to bring personnel to you. It’s their staff and they put it together.”
DeBerry reminded aldermen they have the hiring and firing power.
“Everyone works at the will and pleasure of the board,” he said.
Alderman Russell Johnson said his major concern is the time it takes for city leaders to get through the process of hiring department heads. Tom Boone retired effective April 1 as utility department manager. The job vacancy was advertised in February with a March 1 deadline.
“The utility department has no leader,” Johnson said. “It takes too long. Let’s move forward. It’s not fair to the city.”
Patricia Selman has been serving as interim police chief since the resignation of Robert Burby two years ago. The most recent advertising of the position, in April with a May 5 deadline, was the second go-around. The first time time 16 people met minimum qualifications and two people were interviewed, according to the discussion Tuesday of last week.
Selman said last week she applied for the job when it was first advertised and was interviewed but did not apply again when the decision was made to re-advertise.
“We went back and reopened the process (for police chief) at the call of the board,” DeBerry said.
Liddy asked how long the wait should be between the deadline for applications and the hiring.
“One year?” he asked.
“Some have gone two years,” DeBerry said.
“Chief Selman as interim ought to have every opportunity to prove herself in the position. Sometimes quick is not best.”
Liddy said, “When somebody is really interested, and we wait a year, we may lose good applicants.”
Alderman Hayes said when Burby was hired, aldermen participated in the screening of all applicants.
“No, you didn’t,” DeBerry said. “You select, but you’re not going to screen.
“I have no dog in this fight, but principles mean something to me. The team of department heads is part of my team as executive of this city.
“You can’t do the screening and the selection. That’s a conflict of interest.”
“For us to know our choices, how is that a conflict?” Liddy asked.
“This is a way for you to usurp my authority,” DeBerry said. “I don’t think the board needs to be doing that to me. I’ve sat on this a long time.”
“Settle down,” Hayes told the mayor.
Johnson again emphasized the time factor. His fellow board members agreed that the time factor causes people to lose interest in the job. Aldermen thought within 90 days after the closing date for applications was reasonable for hiring.
“We will be in the process starting this week, and I want to get somebody hired,” Johnson said. “We owe it to the city to hire somebody.”
“Nobody wants these two people hired more than me,” DeBerry said, “but my gut instinct is that haste makes waste.”
Liddy said the board and the mayor need to work together. He said no one needs to exclude the other from the process.
“The board hires and fires,” DeBerry said, “but the executive branch makes the recommendations for hiring. You (the board) make the final call.”
“We’re not working together,” Liddy said.
“We are working together,” DeBerry said, “but it’s not working the way you want it to work.”
The discussion then turned toward the upcoming interviews for hiring a police chief and utility department manager.
Aldermen urged the mayor “to be fair to us” and get all the information the board needed earlier in the process to prepare for the interviews. Three interviews were set for Thursday, and aldermen said they had not received any resumes or other information in order to prepare. DeBerry said he would have the packets in their hands on Wednesday.
There were 22 applicants for police chief and 37 for head of the utility department.
DeBerry said in screening the applicants, some did not meet the criteria outlined in the advertisement.
“I have to look at who all meet the criteria and still stay in after making the last cuts,” he said.
He said the process includes telephone calls to applicants and the checking of references.
“I’m trying to get all this stuff prepared for you, so you can make an informed decision,” DeBerry said.
Liddy said he respected the mayor’s position but a big part of this disagreement involves speeding up the process.
“If we could just do this a little faster – these are two important positions we need to get filled,” Liddy said.
“I know this was a knee-jerk reaction because you all are frustrated,” DeBerry said. “I’ve been on both sides of the track (serving as aldermen before going into the mayor’s seat). My nature is to not impulsively do something. I’d rather err on the side of caution than the side of haste.
“Everything I try to do is in the best interest of the city. Let’s move on, and I will try to speed the process up.”
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