published: Friday, June 22, 2012
City staff pulls out of CRA search
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- The Sebring City Council voted to make a big change during Tuesday night's meeting that will affect a handful of city staff members.
Council member John Clark addressed fellow members about the continued participation in the search for the CRA Executive Director position. The CRA search committee was composed of council members and city staff as well as board and CRA members and Mayor George Hensley.
Clark requested that the city no longer work as a part of the CRA search committee after a number of complaints and issues that had been brought to committee and the council via letter from CRA Chair Kathy Malie.
The letter addressed a handful of complaints that the CRA has with city staff regarding the search committee including: "Changes (that) were made to the job announcement and to the job description...we feel that if changes were desired in the job description, the recommendation of the Search Committee should have come back to CRA Board for review and approval." Other issues including the committee's third extension of the closing date for the executive director job.
"While we may have agreed with additional advertising for the position, it is entirely possible that we may have wanted to hold off re-advertising for a few months," read the letter.
The letter also voiced a concern with funds used for the advertising of the position.
"Fund have been drawn from our budget, without our knowledge or approval and used to pay for advertising. City staff has had access to the CRA Budget and is able to take funds at will, which is not acceptable. Please do not take any funds directly from the CRA accounts, unless written permission is given to do so," Malie stated in the letter.
Clark said that "after a lot of reflection," he would request that the City remove themselves from the process entirely of the hiring committee.
"The CRA is an autonomous organization...and I'd just like to give it all back to them and let them have it. That means no city staff and it's all theirs. If that's not acceptable then I will remove myself from the committee," Clark said.
According to Councilman Andrew Fells, who served as liaison for CRA previously, the CRA chose to add members of the council as well as Hensley and city staff members in order to follow the hiring polices of the city.
"To me it seems like you would go to a CRA meeting and the CRA would take that responsibility from the search committee or give one back and take it to the CRA. I agree with (Clark). I think it's bounced back and forth. I don't know that it's beneficial to city staff to put their time into this. I don't really know that the CRA knows what direction they want to go in at this time," Fells said.
Clark again stressed that he wanted the city removed from the process "including city staff and council members," he clarified.
"Personally, I believe some of the members of the (CRA) board have a hire in mind and that's fine, but let's not play the game. I recommend that the council step out and step away," Clark said.
Council President John Griffin followed Clark's request, stating that he didn't have a problem with council members leaving the committee, but thought city staff members should stay.
"You got Charlotte (Mann) for hiring purposes and keeping everything legal and you got Bob (Hoffman) and Scott (Noethlich) who are knowledgeable about hiring people. Those three should be left in there. Let them work with the CRA board. They've never done this as a board. I mean Pete's (Pollard) been there for 30 years; they've never had to hire anyone like this," Griffin said.
Fells added a final concern.
"I feel like regardless of what Bob, Scott or Charlotte may say, there have been times where Scott and I are in a CRA meeting and we would explain the policy on how the city does things (and) they still did not want to do it that way. So my opinion is you're either going to follow the city's policy, and the city will help you follow that policy on hiring a department head, or you can do it your way and our city staff should not be involved in it," said Fells.
"I think the CRA could handle it however it best saw fit if council didn't wish for city staff to be involved further," added City Attorney Bob Swaine.
Clark made a motion that council remove all city involvement in the CRA executive director search.
Two CRA members, Laurie Smith and Gene Brenner, both members of the CRA hiring committee, approached council following Clark's motion.
"I understand Councilman Clark's feeling about the letter. I was somewhat taken aback by the letter myself as a member of the search committee. But I don't feel that you should let that determine whether you are going to participate in this process or not. I think it is very important that you all be a part of this process," said Smith.
Brenner, former CRA chairman, displayed an opposing view on the situation.
"I agree totally with him (Clark). I think the CRA staff should hire the person that they want as executive director. Being autonomous means that it's totally separate. I think they're (CRA) the ones that should do it," Brenner said.
Council members passed the motion with a 3-1 vote, Griffin casting the dissenting vote.
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