After a controversial search process that upset residents in Atwater, the City Council has decided to hit the reset button on city manager recruitment, this time using a headhunting firm.
The City Council gave the instruction during a special closed session meeting on Thursday, according to Tom Terpstra, the city attorney.
“The council gave staff direction to essentially restart this process through the engagement of a consulting firm that will assist in identifying candidates and scheduling interviews,” he said.
The council decided late last year to try to find the next city manager on its own to try and save money. Atwater has seen difficult financial times in recent years, and leaders have tried to cut back spending to pay off the $2.8 million in general fund debt, among other unfunded obligations.
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The council gave staff direction to essentially restart this process through the engagement of a consulting firm that will assist in identifying candidates and scheduling interviews.
Tom Terpstra, Atwater city attorney
The city gave no estimate for what a consulting firm might cost. City manager searches in the past five years have cost Merced, Livingston and Los Banos fees from $19,000 to about $25,000, according to archives.
Before the council took its vote in closed session, a number of speakers urged the members to hire a firm because the search has drawn controversy.
Councilwoman Cindy Vierra, confirmed to the Sun-Star this month that de Werk supervised her husband, Danny Vierra, who is a police sergeant in Ceres. She said she’d spoken to him at social gatherings, and denied they have a close relationship.
I think this whole process really gives us a black eye.
Eric Lee, an Atwater resident
Then, this week, Councilman Brian Raymond and Vierra confirmed they were at dinner with Councilman Paul Creighton and de Werk, insisting it was a social gathering on Monday at Almond Tree Restaurant and Lounge in Atwater. They said they did not discuss city business, and broke no public meeting rules.
Atwater resident Roger Wood urged the council to hire a firm if the members couldn’t unanimously pick a candidate.
“It appears to me, being on the outside, it’s not as smooth a process as you’d like it to have been,” he said, speaking to the council. “Because of that, perhaps it points out the need to use a professional.”
Another resident, Eric Lee, was more stern with his language, saying he thinks the controversial search has “poisoned the well.”
“I think this whole process really gives us a black eye,” he told the council.
The council expects to pick a search firm in the coming months.