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No decision on city manager after closed meeting

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Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the Killeen City Council’s closed session interviews with city manager candidates is that there is no news.

No decision was made Saturday after about 3½ hours of interviews and about an hour of deliberating, Mayor Jose Segarra confirmed. At least officially, the running is still wide open for all three candidates — or possibly more.

Segarra didn’t rule out going back into the pool of applicants to find new candidates.

“We’re still undecided on that,” he said in a brief interview after the session Saturday. “There was a lot of discussion about it.”

On Friday, the three candidates — Daniel Biles, J.J. Murphy and Ron Olson — were interviewed in front of the public by a citizens advisory committee. Each was asked the same questions from a prepared list, and each was limited to two minutes per answer. That proved tough for the candidates in some instances, because many questions had multiple parts.

Despite the difficulty in the format, the questions asked were not too hard-hitting. Most focused on management style or past experiences.

Segarra said things were different Saturday.

“I think the council did a good job, and I told them that. I think their questions weren’t questions that were in the book,” Segarra said. “They answered a lot of those hard questions, and they did ask a lot of that. That’s the bulk of it.”

“We want someone that is ethical, honest — and I think that’s kind of where a lot of the questions were leading today,” Segarra said, adding that a lot questions were about character.

Over the past few days, red flags were raised about finalists. Murphy’s past dealings have been heavily scrutinized. While serving as city manager in Hobbs, N.M., he had championed two city contracts the New Mexico state auditor’s office said raise “the appearance that the contracts may not have been at arm’s length.” A federal grand jury looked into his business dealings after he resigned as the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., city manager, and a 2012 agreement between Murphy’s consulting group, Goals Consulting, and the Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority to aid in a leasing contract was subpoenaed as part of a widespread corruption probe into the city.

Olson is the former city manager of Corpus Christi. The city’s water system has had a series of problems over the past two years that ultimately led to Olson’s resignation from his post. The city was expected to pay more than $500,000 in corrective requirements and an additional $6,000 in penalties. Under Olson’s watch, the city issued three boil orders, in July and September 2015, and in May.

Biles has no recognizable red flags, aside from his limited experience in city management.

Segarra said the council addressed red-flag issues.

“Nobody battled or anything like that, but they really got in-depth with the candidates, and, hopefully, we’ll be able to make a selection soon,” he said. “I think they did an awesome job today. I was really impressed.”

The next step of the process is in the hands of Strategic Government Resources, which the city hired to find city manager candidates. Segarra and the council have provided SGR’s Mike Tanner — who was present for both interview sessions — with a list of questions the council wants answered.

The firm will have to provide those answers before the City Council can take its next step. That might happen as soon as Tuesday, when the city manager search is listed as a discussion item on the council’s workshop agenda. Councilmen Jim Kilpatrick and Juan Rivera were unable to attend Saturday’s meeting. Both were at funerals for family members.

If Tanner has the time, he might be at Tuesday’s meeting, Segarra said, but the evaluation process is still ongoing.

SGR was awarded a contract in June to conduct the search. Former interim city manager Ann Farris signed that contract, which stated that total cost would not exceed $27,000.

The SGR search process proved to be flawed, though. The firm failed to notify council members of any of the red flags that had popped up, even those that could be found with a simple Google search.

Shortly after being named as one of the five finalists, Andy Bird withdrew from the running. Not long after, Steve Norwood, who was fired as the El Paso city manager because of attendance issues, withdrew from the running without explanation. While there originally appeared to be a healthy number of options, the pool quickly shrank without warning.

The council’s portion of the candidate vetting process also drew criticism. The council put mostly insiders on its residents committee to interview candidates.

The committee’s public interviews were held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, when many residents were at work. If residents had been free, not many would have fit into the room with the city employees who attended. The sessions were in a cramped 40-seat room at the Stonecreek Golf Course.

sullivan@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7552

254-501-7552 | sullivan@kdhnews.com

(3) comments

timebandid

It is ashamed that the time spent in Friday's meeting yielded little new information. Trying to determine a candidate's management style as opposed to his management RESULTS is complete foolishness. This is style over substance and can lead to the selection of a person who may simply continue to "play the game" at city hall and do nothing to correct our out-of-control budget and the current lack of transparency. I do agree with Ron Olson's comments on the fact that there needs to be an ethical foundation for this and any other position in city government. My vote is to select him, if no other red flag are found. He has made substantial changes in Corpus Christi which has vastly improved that city's finances and was able to make the tough choices necessary to get things done. With the support of our city council, I fully believe he could do the same for our city.

John Murphy should never have been considered as a finalist, no matter who his brother is. The problems revealed in the last two cities, in which he served, are problems Killeen doesn't need.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
First off – Get that dribble off of this page. It has nothing to do with what is being spoken about here. If you want to start your on page, in my opinion, if there is nothing against it by this paper, you are free do do so, but not on this page.
Now on to the meat of this article:
Copy: 'No decision was made Saturday after about 3½ hours of interviews and about an hour of deliberating, Mayor Jose Segarra confirmed. At least officially, the running is still wide open for all three candidates — or possibly more.
Segarra didn’t rule out going back into the pool of applicants to find new candidates. End of copy.
Segarra didn't rule out going back into the pool of applicants to find new candidates. Why in the world would this council and the citizens of this city 'want to go back into the pool of applicants??? Doesn't seem reasonable that the candidates that the search firm, Strategic Government Resources, if they did anything at all as to 'weeding out the chafe' of candidates seeking this position, and the 5 candidates, which was reduced through withdrawal, to he remaining 3, and there were 'Red Flags against at least 2 of them, and the resultant 1 who the 'committee of 8 could only comment that he did not have much experience', doesn't that tell you the city council and to the rest of us citizens, Do we as suggested by our mayor Sagarra, that we do not feel that 'we should not go back to the list of candidates that was prepared by Strategic Government Resources for another look, that that list has already bee perused and felt that these candidates do not deserve any future consideration' that a new list should be generated, along with the list that was generated by Strategic Government Services to weed out any and all duplication of people, and that this 'new committee' should be formed as to indicate any past, present, or future people who have have in any way any semblance of activity with this city in the last 15 years. This committee should have access to any and all paperwork that was bought and paid for by the city of Killeen by the Strategic Government Resources organization. This is to be the basis of the new committee's in their formation of duties assigned to the selection of the new candidate for the office of City Manager.
I do not think that this city should be in such a hurry as to 'take what ever is presented'. Be prepared to prepare solicitations from any number of publications and other resources.
Look what we got when our city government 'Rushed' to fill the vacant seat of the city manager.
I am of the personal opinion that this city can not 'wait' until the new city manager is seated to start and continue with the resolution of the forensic audit, both are, in my opinion paramount to solving the ills of this city.
Copy: 'The next step of the process is in the hands of Strategic Government Resources, which the city hired to find city manager candidates. Segarra and the council have provided SGR’s Mike Tanner — who was present for both interview sessions — with a list of questions the council wants answered.' End of copy.
It is my personal opinion that we have wasted enough time 'looking to the Strategic Government Resources and Mike Tanner' to, as mayor Segarra has said, leave it to them to find a suitable candidate to fill the office of City Manager. As I have already said, it should be a committee of citizens who can and will assume control of the selection of a candidate with which to select a person who is to fill this chair. Pay the 'Strategic Government Resources' off and be done with it.
And in conclusion:
Copy: 'The sessions were in a cramped 40-seat room at the Stonecreek Golf Course.' End of copy.
And this to emphasizes the importance of what they felt about 'The citizens of this city' when they schedule a meeting in a 40 seat room. You be the judge.
One of the 3% who voted.

janiferalex


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