Several Killeen City Council members had pointed questions for City Manager Kent Cagle on Tuesday, regarding his proposed appointment of Public Works Director Danielle Singh as the assistant city manager.
During Tuesday’s workshop meeting, council members were told that a nationwide search between Jan. 5 and Feb. 1, conducted by Strategic Government Resources, yielded 59 candidates, 13 semifinalists and six finalists. Cagle chose Singh as the best candidate.
Singh has 14 years of experience, including time as an assistant city manager for the city of Hutto, according to Cagle. She has served as Killeen’s public works director for about two years.
The city paid SGR $14,127 to conduct the candidate search.
Councilman Ken Wilkerson asked Cagle what the city got for spending just over $14,000.
In response, Cagle said they were able to find some of the best candidates for the job nationwide.
Over the past two weeks, questions have been raised about Cagle’s transparency during the hiring process
There have been recent questions on the transparency of Cagle during the hiring process.
Cagle said that if the council or public feel he hasn’t been transparent, then clearly it is valid, but that he had no intention to keep the appointment a secret.
However, the first time the proposed appointment was made public was when the city released Tuesday’s meeting agenda on Thursday afternoon. City offices were closed the following day for Good Friday.
Also, Cagle has declined to respond to several questions from the Herald regarding the potential appointment over the past two weeks, as has the city’s public information officer.
During Tuesday’s discussion, Councilman Rick Williams noted that the assistant city manager becomes the council’s city manager if Cagle has to step away for any reasons so he feels the council should have had more input. Williams said he did not know the job was even being advertised.
“I have no issue with the process,” Williams said. “I have an issue with the fact that we found out about this search and the decision from an outside source,” Williams said.
The starting salary, according to the job description that was listed by the search firm, is “negotiable in the $160,000 range.”
However, Singh is slated to come in at $15,000 more that — at $175,000, according to the staff report accompanying Tuesday’s council agenda.
Additionally, her proposed $175,000 salary is $27,000 higher than the $148,000 former Assistant City Manager David Ellison was making when he resigned last year.
Ellison had more than 20 years of city management experience — including multiple assistant city manager positions — when the city hired him in January 2019.
When asked by several council members about Ellison’s former salary, Cagle said he thought Ellison was paid far too low but that was not an agreement he made with Ellison. Ron Olson was the city manager when Ellison was hired.
Councilwoman Melissa Brown said the increase from $148,000 to around $175,000 is a lot of money in Killeen right now, especially with current budgetary constraints in the city.
Taneika Driver-Moultrie spoke at public forum Tuesday on the appointment of Singh as the assistant city manager and asked why the new position would make an additional $15,000 on top of what the position was advertised as — and why Singh would make more money than Ellison.
Councilman Steve Harris said that he does not think Cagle intended to keep anybody in the dark during the process and that he did his job.
Harris also said that the higher salary makes sense when compared to other cities; he reiterated that Cagle did not agree to Ellison’s salary.
“Mr. Cagle did do his job ... we take it as a learning experience, we learn from it and we use it to grow together as a council,” Harris said.
Councilwoman Shirley Fleming said that she wrote an email to Cagle assertimg that he was not transparent in this process. She did not find out about the recruiting for the position until it was done, she said.
She added that the council has not even had the opportunity to sit down with Singh prior to a decision being made.
Mayor Jose Segarra pointed out that the city has gotten a lot of flak on previous decisions to hire city staff because they only looked inside instead of looking outside of the city.
Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King said she has been disappointed with the flak that Singh has received since the news of Singh’s recommendation came out.
“All she did was follow the process. She submitted an application and she was selected,” she said.
Councilman Terry Clark said he has no interest in micromanaging the city manager. He also said that Cagle does not have to share anything with the council on his job search for his executives.
“You did a great job, I’m not going to do a knee-jerk reaction to a press inquiry ... I commend you; you did a great job,” Clark said to Cagle.
A decision on appointing Singh as the assistant city manager may be made at next Tuesday’s regular council meeting.