After interviewing three finalists for the Killeen city manager’s position Saturday, the City Council failed to reach a decision on filling the post.
That may be disappointing to some residents, but it’s better that the council be deliberate in its selection.
Council members will discuss the candidates further at Tuesday’s workshop session, so hiring one of the finalists is still a possibility. But it’s also possible the council will decide to reject all three candidates and start over.
In any event, the way the current search process evolved deserves serious scrutiny.
That scrutiny should start with the performance of Strategic Government Resources, the Keller-based executive search firm tasked with finding suitable candidates for the job.
SGR initially presented the city with five candidates for the post — out of the 32 candidates who applied — but almost immediately, the backgrounds of some of the finalists raised red flags.
Internet searches and interviews with city officials revealed a troubling pattern of administrative irresponsibility among the five candidates identified by SGR — including potential conflicts of interest involving municipal contracts, poor attendance records and contentious relationships with elected officials.
Two candidates subsequently dropped out of the running last week, but questions remained surrounding the three finalists who were interviewed by the council Saturday — including published reports that one of the candidates quit his last municipal post without giving notice in the midst of a public works crisis.
Choosing job candidates based only on the basis of their resumes is a dangerous practice — something that most experienced employers know all too well.
Yet the city spent $27,000 on a search firm that did not perform an in-depth background check on the prospective Killeen city manager candidates before presenting its list of “finalists,” as its senior vice president, Mike Tanner acknowledged recently.
However, the city said much of that background work had been done prior to the finalists being chosen.
Obviously, that was not the case.
Anyone with internet access and a phone could have uncovered many of the issues that surrounded some of the candidates. Yet, such basic screening was not done in this case — and that is unacceptable.
Before the council was presented with an in-depth booklet of information on each remaining candidate at their regular meeting Tuesday, they were forced to do investigations of their own into the finalists’ pasts.
One council member who had expressed concerns about the lack of diversity among the candidates was directed by the city’s Human Resources director to leave the search process to SGR.
That council member had a legitimate concern. All five finalists for the city manager’s position are white males.
Moreover, the Citizens Advisory Committee that participated in preliminary interviews with the finalists Friday is similarly lacking in diversity — and two members don’t even live in Killeen.
Given the broad spectrum of diversity reflected among the city’s population, it is disappointing that such diversity was neither in evidence among the city manager finalists nor among the committee with direct input into their selection.
Bottom line, the selection process should have been more inclusive, more informative and more transparent. The city must find ways to ensure greater involvement of the city’s residents and better information about those who seek to serve them.
Certainly, there was no guarantee SGR would produce an acceptable candidate. Such was the case in 2011, when the council halted its search for an outside candidate to fill the role after the departure of City Manager Connie Green. When no acceptable candidate was found. Morrison, the interim city manager at the time, was hired for the role instead.
After months of uncertainty, the city can ill afford a wasted search effort this time around. But it’s imperative that the council take the time to get this hire right.