Pell City to re-advertise manager job
by David Atchison
Jun 13, 2012 | 1363 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PELL CITY – The mayor did not ask for authorization to enter into a contract with a new city manager the council secretly interviewed weeks ago.

“I was hoping to have a contract for you to approve, but we do not have an agreement,” Mayor Bill Hereford told the council Monday night.

Councilman Greg Gossett asked to re-advertise the city manager’s job.

The council voted to reopen the newly established job for the next seven days.

“We’re going to move forward with the search,” Hereford said.

The mayor and council refused to provide the name of the candidate involved in the recent contract negotiation because the candidate was employed elsewhere.

Hereford told the council at last Thursday’s work session that he would ask the council to increase the salary range for the possible candidate to $105,000 annually. He did not make that request because he could not reach a contract agreement with the unnamed candidate.

The council set the salary range for the new city manager position at $52,394-$103,406, during an October 2011 council meeting.

Hereford said last week the council must increase the city manager salary to $105,000 for the candidate he was expected to negotiate a contract with.

“It’s a small increase,” Hereford told the council.

Officials said the salary range approved by the council last year will remain intact as the search for a new city manager continues.

Hereford and other members of the council denied last week they violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act when they met secretly with the city manager candidate.

The mayor and council interview six candidates in January, and the process was open to the public. The public was not invited to attend the last interview.

Instead, the council met with the candidate in smaller groups, side-stepping the requirement to notify the public of the meeting because there was not a quorum, or the majority of the council, present.

Councilmen Donnie Todd and Donnie Guinn interviewed the candidate at one meeting, and Council members Dot Wood, Greg Gossett and James McGowan interviewed the candidate at another meeting, so there was never a quorum of the council.

“We made sure of that,” Wood said.

State legislators passed the Alabama Open Meetings Act in 2005 in an effort to bring transparency and openness to government so as to enhance public trust and confidence in governing bodies.

Todd, who was not present at Monday night’s council meeting, said last week the candidate would not have applied for the position, if his name was made public.

“That is almost always said,” said Dennis Bailey, general counsel for the Alabama Press Association.

He said governing bodies hold “serial meetings,” so officials can avoid conducting public business in public.

“This was not the intent of the Open Meetings Act,” Bailey said. “This flies in the face of the Open Meetings Act.”

Friday morning, The Daily Home requested the resume and application of the city manager candidate who was recently interviewed by the mayor and council.

Hereford said he had some “right to privacy” concerns about the city providing the documents.

“I have referred this matter to our city attorney for his opinion,” Hereford said late Friday.

In January, city officials released all names, resumes and applications of candidates who applied for the city manager’s job and who were interviewed or screened via telephone conference by the mayor and council. The public was notified prior to the January interviews by the local media, and the interviews were held in the conference room of city hall.

Bailey said the documents requested by The Daily Home are public records, and the city should provide access to those documents.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.

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