In a 4 to 1 vote, the West Liberty City Council voted to advertise internally for the city manager position at the end of the city council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Current City Manager David Haugland submitted his resignation to the city Feb. He accepted a position with the City of Huxley as their city administrator. His last day in West Liberty is March 31.
City councilmember Ashley Smith was the only dissenting vote. She said she wanted to feel with certainty the city council looked everywhere for David Haugland’s replacement.
“Honestly, I have faith that we have the internal candidate to do this position but like I said before I also know people that are invested in the community that is worth the look if they were interested,” city councilmember Dana Dominguez said. “There might be no other applicants that are interested.”
City councilmember Cara McFerren asked if the city council decide to move forward with posting the position internally first, what would happen if someone not working for the city saw the position and wanted to apply.
“So our internal process is that we would post the position to allow a period of time internally for those applicants to apply,” city clerk Lee Geertz replied. “Then your internal applicant applies. Then you can review those applications and you can interview.”
If the city council isn’t satisfied with the applications they received internally, then they could move to the external process, Geertz added.
“But here’s where I am telling you, it’s not just as simple as posting the position,” she said.
“It’s hiring a consultant probably,” Mayor Ethan Anderson said.
“Yes,” Geertz said. “I want to make sure you’re understanding that.”
The city would have to send out request for proposals (RFPs) for consultants, she added. This would add time to the process because the RFPs would have to be reviewed by city council. Then they would have to hire a consultant to begin the search. Geertz suggested the city council look for a consultant right away.
Councilmember McFerren asked if anyone could apply for the position if they saw the job posting.
“Yeah,” Geertz said. “Anybody internally within the organization.”
City councilmember Omar Martinez said the city wouldn’t have the same timeframe if they hired a consultant for external applicants. He asked how the process would work with the consultant.
“They would manage the entire process so they would help with the publication of it,” Anderson replied. “They would help with collecting the data, collating it for you. They would reach out specifically to people they think might be good applicants through their network.”
Dominguez asked Geertz if the city council had to use a consultant to review the applications or if city councilmembers could review them.
“It could lead to a liability,” Geertz said. “I would recommend you talk to law council before you go that route.”
The consultant would be a neutral party, she added.
“Is that just not really done?” Anderson asked Geertz. “For cities to run that process themselves? Is that what you’re saying?”
Who is going to run the process, Geertz asked city councilmembers. Who has the knowledge to run and administrate the process?
“I do it everyday,” Dominguez responded.
“You’re going to have daily work,” Geertz said. “And again I would advise you get legal counsel on that.”
The city has done internal and external postings for the city manager position, Anderson said. He was a part of the process when he was a city councilmember in the past. It was hard then for the city to get good applicants.
“It’s a tough role to hire for,” he said. “The person has to move here and also the timing has to be just perfect in their career so they can make that jump and they have to want just this job so it becomes a very limited pool.”
He wasn’t arguing for or against hiring a consultant but reminded city council either way it would be a hard process.
Dominguez said it would be hard for her to trust a consultant that didn’t know West Liberty.
Martinez agreed with her. He said he would want to hire a consultant that had knowledge of West Liberty.
McFerren said the city council needed to consider what they wanted from an applicant because deciding that would take a lot of time.
The last time there was a posting for the city manager position there were 40 applicants, Geertz said. From those 40 applications, only four were selected by the city council. The purpose of having the consultant is narrowing down the applicant field based off what the city council says they’re looking for. The cost of hiring a consultant is better than the city being sued.
Dominguez said if they do choose to post the position internally and have a good applicant they still have the ability to do job performance reviews.
“And we’re on a tight timeline right now,” she added.
There are a lot of projects the city has coming up including the Maxson Street Rainbow Drive construction project. She said she would like to also see the city council sit in their own council chambers in the phase two of city hall project.
“I think that’s why I’m comfortable considering that – to post internally,” Dominguez added.
The city council would post internally, review the candidates and if they weren’t comfortable with who applied they could then hire a consultant and post the position externally, Anderson said. It would extend the timeline a little bit.
Geertz asked city council to look at whom they were going to entrust to continue the projects the city has coming to move forward.
The vote was taken. It passed 4 to 1 as mentioned before. The job was posted at city hall later that week.