City Council supports city manager search firm


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All the City Councilors agree — a search firm it is.

At Monday night’s Iowa City City Council work session, all seven councilors expressed support for hiring an outside search firm to aid the group in its quest to find a new city manager.

Though no official vote was taken, none of the councilors disagreed with Mayor Matt Hayek’s suggestion to outsource the search. They noted an outside firm would provide them with a wide array of applications for the position.

“There are a better number and quality of candidates,” Councilor Susan Mims said. “I definitely support the idea of an outside search firm.”

Though numerous firms have expressed interest in the job, the council has yet to hire or review applications, Hayek said.

The council grappled with how much the firm will be asked to do. The last search firm created a city profile just two years ago and those documents only need to be updated, not made anew, Hayek said.

“The recruiting angle, where they are seeking more qualified applicants, and how they are encouraging them to apply is among the most important,” he said.

Councilor Connie Champion stressed the urgency of hiring a city manager at the work session. The council agreed it would like the position filled by next fall.

“The new manager would have a few months to get on her or his feet before budget issues arise,” Hayek said. “Plus, it’s an exciting time to be in town anyway.”

In a memo to councilors last week endorsing the hiring of a search firm, he also said he’d like to modify the interviewing process for final candidates. The process would require the use of three committees, two consisting of citizen commissioners and the final forming a panel of retired Iowa City mayors.

Councilors discussed the logistics of the interview process; they all agreed with Hayek’s proposal.
Councilor Regenia Bailey suggested adding to Hayek’s plan by combining his ideas with previously used interviewing processes, such as an interview with each city department head.

This isn’t the first time city officials have needed to discuss city manager logistics.

Two years ago, the City Council decided to hire an outside firm to find applicants for the then-vacant position.

The last search, conducted by the PAR Group, spanned nine months. The city hired Michael Lombardo, but fired him in April 2009.

The PAR Group guaranteed the city at least 12 months of employment from Lombardo. The agreement stated if Lombardo were terminated before one year of service, PAR Group would conduct a new search nearly free of charge. Lombardo was fired weeks before reaching his one-year mark.

Since Lombardo’s termination, PAR Group filed bankruptcy, forcing the city to find a different search service for the new manager. The city is out nearly $16,500 of promised services, according to a memo released last month by City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes.

The council will vote on the decision at its next formal meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 16.

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