Keizer City Councilor Ross Day took aim at the process by which the city is selecting an interim city manager and the primary candidate under consideration for the job at a city council meeting Monday, June 7.
Noting that the city manager is one of only two direct employees of the council, Day embarked on an attack on the process and Wes Hare, the former city manager of Albany, who is being considered as the city’s interim city manager.
“This is a decision that is specifically delegated to the city council, and it’s taking place outside of the council,” Day said. “I know Wes Hare and, to be honest, I am not a fan. [The interaction] was not pleasant. I don’t trust him and that’s my problem but, if you had consulted me I would have told you.”
Councilors previously voted to give Clark power to move the process ahead.
When asked for more details about Day’s interaction with Hare, Day added, “[Hare] worked for the advancement of policy that would have harmed one of my clients. He didn’t care that it was going to cause substantial harm to a business in the city of Albany.”
According to Day, the city dropped its stance when other attorneys intervened.
Despite Day’s reservations and some voiced by others on the council, the hiring process will proceed to the next steps. Councilor’s voted 5-2 to continue with an informal meet-and-greet on Monday, June 14, at 7 p.m. It will take the form of a council work session and is open to the public.
Councilor Dan Kohler joined Day in opposition to carrying forward on the current path.
“There have been a number of times I’ve been involved in hiring people and it’s not always the one with the most experience that is the one that we need,” Kohler said.
The city received two applicants for the interim city manager role, but the second candidate’s name has not been disclosed. The applications were screened by the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Government and scored based on how each candidate aligned with the minimum requirement set forth by the city.
In addition to his experience in Oregon, Hare worked in consulting capacities with local government administrations internationally. As part of the International City County Managers Association, Hare consulted in Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iraq, he told the Corvallis Gazette-Times in 2016.
“The majority of Mr. Hare’s experience was as Albany’s City Manager where he served for 12 years. This is in comparison to the other candidate that has over 17 years of experience as a City Manager at three different agencies with two of the three positions being four years or less,” stated a staff recommendation.
City administrators also scored the two applications and Hare rose to the top based on past experience as a city manager and serving in interim roles like the one Keizer is looking for. Mayor Cathy Clark and Councilor Elizabeth Smith were provided access to the scores and decided to move forward with only one candidate, Hare. Clark and Smith said they did not know the names of the individuals until after determining which one would move forward.
In addition to Day and Kohler, Councilor Roland Herrera felt other members of the council had been left out of the process being used to hire an interim city manager.
“I would like to have had a little more information. I trust our leadership, but I think it would have been important to be kept in the loop,” Herrera said.
Slowing the process and including the second candidate could take up to two additional months to play out, possibly longer depending on whether the council declared a failed recruitment and reissue requests for applicants. The interim city manager is expected to serve only six to 12 months while the city launches a search for a permanent replacement.
“We are talking about a two-month process for a 12-month position,” said Councilor Laura Reid.
In the meantime, Keizer’s department directors are taking on additional workload and putting other projects on hold until an interim city manager is hired, said Machell DePina, human resources director. Keizer Finance Director Tim Wood is serving in the role of city manager pro temp.
Assurances that the council would be more involved in hiring a permanent city manager did little to dissuade Day from his campaign against the current process.
“How do I know this won’t be the process we use to hire the full-time city manager,” he said.
DePina responded that the council, city staff and residents of the city would all have opportunities to vet the candidates for the permanent role.
Keizer’s former city manager resigned in April, a month after discharging a gun in his office.