• October 25, 2014

City manager pick needlessly rushed

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Posted: Sunday, June 3, 2012 12:00 pm

On many levels, appointing Glenn Morrison as Killeen's next city manager makes sense.

After all, Morrison has served effectively in an interim capacity since the city parted ways with former City Manager Connie Green in March 2011. And Morrison has definitely earned his stripes, serving the city in several capacities for more than 20 years.

But what doesn't make as much sense is the timing of the decision.

The five newly elected city council members had barely been in office for a week before Mayor Dan Corbin - also new to the office - suggested Morrison's appointment at a May 24 workshop meeting.

Council members were quick to voice their support for the proposal. But then Corbin went a step further, asking city staff if it could hammer out a contract and have it ready for Morrison's signature by the next council meeting - just five days away.

After the city attorney noted that quick action on big decisions has caused problems for previous councils, the members decided to slow the timeline for the hiring.

Still, at the subsequent meeting last week, the council voted unanimously to appoint Morrison to the post, pending negotiation of his contract. Three council members, the city attorney and human resources director will form a committee to work out the details of the contract before it goes to the full council later this month.

Corbin suggested the public be allowed to review and comment on the contract before it is approved. That is a wise move, since the buyout clause in Green's contract was a major source of contention for the previous council - and ultimately led to the removal of five members in November's recall election. Corbin assured council members he would disapprove of such a buyout stipulation in Morrison's contract.

Still, the question remains: Why the need to lock Morrison into the job so quickly?

After all, Morrison initially said he wasn't interested in the position, though he has since changed his mind.

Also, with the exception of Terry Clark and Mike Lower, none of the council members has any experience working with him on city business - an important consideration.

As the city moves through the annual budget process, it is crucial that council members have an opportunity to gauge their working relationship with Morrison.

Prioritizing, developing and finalizing a municipal budget for the coming fiscal year should give new council members a feel for how Morrison handles the obligations of the city manager's post, as well as help them get to know him personally.

At that point, once the budget is adopted in September, it would make sense to extend a contract offer if council members feel comfortable working with Morrison and are pleased with his job performance.

Not surprisingly, both Corbin and the council were opposed to hiring a search firm to bring in outside candidates for city manager. The previous council did just that last year, spending $25,000 before suspending the search amid concerns about the speed of the process and the impending recall. The qualifications and backgrounds of some of the finalists also factored into the decision.

In Morrison, the council has a proven administrator with a long track record of city service. He held directorships in Killeen's parks and recreation department before he was named assistant city manager in 2008. In addition, Morrison is a Killeen native and Killeen High School graduate, so he has an understanding of the city's history and its unique relationship to Fort Hood.

Indeed, extending a contract to such a longtime city employee would hardly be a risky move.

But again, the question is one of timing.

In his brief tenure as mayor, Corbin has moved quickly to institute changes. In his first week, he pushed for televised workshop meetings - a move he had advocated as a councilman in 2004 - and also asked that workshops be scheduled an hour later to allow more residents to attend.

These moves were made, Corbin said, in the interest of transparency.

Few would argue the importance of that consideration, especially given the city council's recent history of closed-door meetings and behind-the-scenes negotiations.

But acting too quickly on major decisions can give the appearance of a lack of transparency - and the apparent rush to appoint a new city manager would seem to run that risk.

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