City eyes cheap search for Lombardo’s replacement

BY CHRIS CLARK | APRIL 27, 2009 7:28 AM

Iowa City’s next city manager search could come without much of a price tag.

The Iowa City City Council paid a recruitment service more than $30,000 over nine months to find former City Manager Michael Lombardo. On April 17, the council unanimously voted to fire Lombardo.

City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes sent a letter last week to the president of the PAR Group — the firm that conducted the city’s searches — informing the firm the city may wish to use its services to recruit a new manager. A clause in the city’s contract with the PAR Group guaranteed Lombardo’s employment for at least 12 months — if he did not to complete that term, the company would be required to conduct a new search nearly free of charge.

The council terminated Lombardo’s contract fewer than two weeks before he would have been employed for a year.

Councilors said they’re unsure if or when they will use the PAR Group’s services. But Mayor Regenia Bailey said if the city asks the firm to conduct a new search, the contract states it would cost the city almost nothing.

“We would pay for typical expenses to meet with consultants, such as mileage, travel and lodging,” Bailey said.

While Lombardo’s discharge came just before the year-long guarantee expired, Councilor Connie Champion said the clause didn’t influence the timing of the council’s decision.

“It didn’t even cross my mind,” she said.

City officials have kept quiet on why Lombardo was terminated, saying the motivation behind the firing is confidential because it’s a personnel matter. Lombardo declined to comment on the decision on two separate occasions last week at his home.

Lombardo’s evaluation was originally scheduled for May 4 and 5, but the council moved the review to April 17 and fired him the same day. Champion said the the reason the council moved the date ahead was “pretty obvious.”

“We wanted to evaluate him,” she said.

Bailey said she didn’t consider changing the date of Lombardo’s evaluation to be “moving forward.”
“We were within his annual review period,” she said. “The meeting was deemed appropriate for the time period.”

Assistant City Manager Dale Helling is acting as the interim city manager until the position is filled permanently.

Bailey said councilors will consider Helling as an option when they move forward.

“The council has not discussed [the timeline of the hiring process] yet,” Councilor Mike Wright said. “There are seven council members and probably seven timelines.”

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