A search for a city manager yields few results

The termination of former city manager William Elliott still impacts the

Sequim City Council. Faced with the task of hiring a new manager, the council has become divisive on what that process should be, creating an atmosphere some believe will make the search a more difficult one.

“I can’t imagine a city manager stepping into a city where they can’t even agree on rules,” interim city manager Robert Spinks said. “You need to own the person and the process.”

The debate on how to hire a city manager took place during the council’s June 9 regular meeting when Councilman Erik Erichsen proposed that rather than the entire seven-member council having the responsibility of hiring a new manager, an ad hoc committee of two council members and one former member (John Beitzel) be created to develop and carry out the process. According to Erichsen, this would include “developing and managing the selection and recruitment of candidates including selection criteria such as job description, performance standards, contract, interviews, screening and final candidates for selection.”

The proposal drew instant criticism from some members of the council because it sounded very much like the ad hoc committee — aside from a final vote — would be solely responsible for the entire hiring process.

“I’m absolutely opposed to this,” Councilman Paul McHugh said. “It will truly cut out the council and I don’t want to be brought in at the end of the process.”

McHugh went onto say that the proposal seemed “predestined,” and “preordained” and lacking transparency whatsoever.

The two council members proposed by Erichsen to sit on the ad hoc committee are himself and Councilman Ken Hays, who both voted for Elliott’s removal. Erichsen also was responsible for calling for the executive session that led to Elliott’s dismissal. McHugh said the fact that

Erichsen and Hays would be responsible for hiring a new city manager was highly suspect.

Hays maintained that the ad hoc committee would not be responsible for hiring a new manager but only responsible for developing the process with which to hire a city manager.

“You’re distorting the reality,” Hays said. “The committee is not forming to do any selection.”

Hays said the committee would come back to the council with a collection of actions and a range of options. Hays admitted, however, that he didn’t think a traditional hiring process — hiring a recruitment or “head hunting” group — would yield superior results and that perhaps the ad hoc committee could eventually weed out some candidates.

Councilwoman Susan Lorenzen, who supported the proposed committee, said it would lift some of the burden off the council and city staff.

“It would just be laborious,” Lorenzen said. “All this committee is doing is establishing a thoughtful process.”

Spinks, who said that he had three proposals from various recruiting firms, urged the council to wait until they’d had a chance to review the proposals but the council went forth with the motion, voting 4-3 to create the ad hoc committee.

“If this council is ever going to get along, then sooner or later there is going to have to be trust on both sides,” Hays said.

Councilman Walt Schubert said that trust is earned, and so far Hays and Erichsen had not earned his trust. Erichsen countered that trust is a free gift.

“If this council is ever going to get along, then sooner or later there is going to have to be trust on both sides.”

— Ken Hays, Sequim City Council

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