Questions still surround city manager search following ‘dysfunctional’ special session meeting

Councilor Ross Day expresses his frustration to fellow councilors and staff members at a Aug. 19 special session meeting. (Photo courtesy of KeizerTV)

“I can’t imagine who would want to come work as the city manager for a city that is this, frankly, dysfunctional,” Keizer City Councilor Laura Reid said at Monday’s special session. “I think we’ve done better than this in the past. I think that we have done better at respecting our staff and their professionalism in the past.”

Reid’s blunt remarks punctuated more than an hour of contentious debate regarding a hiring process that some on the council felt lacked transparency.

The special session Monday was scheduled following a council meeting on Aug. 16 where councilors couldn’t come to an agreement on signing a contract with The Greg Prothman Company. Prothman is an executive recruiting firm that was set to help the city recruit their next city manager — Keizer has been without a permanent city manager since April.

The main objector to the contract was councilor Ross Day, who at last week’s meeting described the selection process and contract as “shoddy work” and “embarrassing.” Ross’s main concern with Prothman, which is a Washington company, was that they weren’t a registered business in Oregon.

City Attorney Shannon Johnson seemed to alleviate these concerns at Monday’s session, informing the council that Prothman was now registered. Johnson added that he had conferred with colleagues in other cities who said that it wasn’t abnormal the company wasn’t registered before.

Day, however, was still upset that the mayor, finance director and human resources director were the only people involved in the selection of Prothman.

“Something better change. I’m looking at everybody in the room. Something better change and include all seven councilors. It’s not staff’s decision, period,” said Day, banging the dais to emphasize his point.

Prothman was one of three eligible companies that applied to help Keizer recruit a city manager.

The mayor, finance director and human resource director individually scored each company based on project understanding, qualifications, and project approach and schedule. Prothman was selected after receiving the highest collective score.

Mayor Cathy Clark said using a limited committee to propose a selection, rather than the whole council, was typical. She added, however, that she should have realized this wasn’t a typical selection.

No contract with Prothman would have been signed without final approval of the council.

Additionally, while Prothman would help recruit city manager candidates, and propose viable candidates, all final decisions would have been made by the council.

“One of my concerns in this process is that by, disrespecting our staff, and calling into question every little detail of every little piece of the process, we are disincentivizing candidates,” said Reid. Reid added that while some of the questions raised were “problematic,” they were more questions of minutiae than importance.

After lengthy debate, the council voted four to three not to restart the entire process.

Instead, the council directed staff to conduct checks of Prothman’s references and prepare a resolution instructing the city manager to sign a contract with the company. The resolution would still need council’s approval at the Sept. 7 city council meeting.

If the council chooses not to pass the resolution, a process that first began in June would restart.

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.