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Council to consider honing manager list

By Staff | May 22, 2010

Councilmember Pete Brandt wants to whittle the field of 17 city manager candidates down to no more than five on Monday, but he could run into opposition to that proposal on the dais.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said he’s not concerned with Brandt’s rush to install the new city manager before council’s summer hiatus, which starts June 14.
“I’m not worried about it in the least,” McGrail said of the timeline. “I have a competent city manager in place right now … I don’t understand the rush.”
McGrail, too, said he’s going to call into question Brandt’s support for Tom Leipold, a Cape resident and city manager candidate who did not meet the advertised minimum qualifications for the job but whose name was added to those who were sent applicant questions for council consideration.
Brandt pushed hard for Leipold to be included in the list of qualified applicants last Monday. Brandt said he never agreed with the minimum qualifications, and Leipold deserves a place among the other candidates.
McGrail fears that including Leipold opens the city to possible litigation, and invalidates the work Human Resources has done vetting the candidates.
“I’m not happy we have taken our qualified list and discarded it for one candidate,” McGrail said. “I think it’s ridiculous to pull people from an unqualified list.”
City council received Friday afternoon answers to the council-developed essay questions sent to candidates as part of the hiring process.
That gives council members little more than the weekend to process those answers to reduce the list to the finalists on Monday.
Councilmember Marty McClain also said he does not think council has enough time to digest these essay answers prior to making a decision on Monday.
He said the decision is too important to simply rush through.
“It’s going to be difficult to try and dwindle this down to a short list of five with the limited amount of time to read through the answers,” McClain said. “I feel that’s an unrealistic time frame to accomplish this goal.”
Mayor John Sullivan, though, said he was comfortable with that time frame, and should be able to make an informed decision on Monday, though he didn’t say how many candidates would make the next cut.
“I don’t want to put a number on it,” Sullivan said.
Councilmember Bill Deile said council should be able to cut the list of city manager candidates in half on Monday.
Meanwhile, the search has drawn interest in the community with some organizations banding together to urge a concentration on professional credentials and public sector experience while others have launched signature campaigns to support their candidate of choice.
Annette Carrasquillo from the Chamber of Commerce said people from the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, the Civic Association, Council for Progress, Board of Realtors and Chamber, plan to get involved.
She said the group, which had not met as of Friday, was going to pour through the candidate applications.
Though they have not met, she said there already is a consensus for one foundation qualification they agree is key.
“We want to see the best person that has the history of working with city government,” she said. “We want someone that’s shown strength and leadership.”
Council is also receiving e-mails on the applicants and the process itself and, if one e-mail is accurate, could be receiving more as the elected board moves to find its next top administrator.
According to an e-mail sent to all council members in support of local applicant Gary King, there a petition drive planned and an e-mail campaign under way urging residents let council members know they support King.
An attachment to the e-mail urges those receiving it to “write into the entire council and tell them you want GARY KING FOR CITY MANAGER WRITE INTO THE COUNCIL AND MAYOR ASAP” The attachment also states “We are working on the petition that will be going out to places this morning and left at these places till Friday also I will be going to our neighbors to alarm them of Sat and also telling them to write into our council to get Gary elected.”
Neither the person whose name appears on the original e-mail attachment nor the e-mail sender could be reached for comment Friday.
As mandated by the city’s charter, the city manager is hired and fired by city council and reports directly to that board. Although council promoted and approved a one-year contract for the former assistant city manager, Carl Schwing, their search for a permanent manager has continued.
Deile said citizen involvement would not sway his decision for city manager, but he would be willing to listen if they were able to bring something new to the table, regardless of the candidate they ultimately support.
“If they raise an issue I haven’t considered, it’s valuable,” Deile said.
McClain said his vote isn’t going to come down to the number of e-mails received.
“No, not mine,” he said when asked if an e-mail campaign or petition drive would sway his vote. “I’m going to weigh the merits of their applications, their answers to the questions (sent), and their qualifications and, in addition to that, how they fare through the interview process.
McClain confirmed he had already received “a number” of e-mails supporting King.
The city’s Human Resources ranked the applicants who met the city’s advertised qualifications into three “bands” or tiers based on a numerical system that took into consideration education and experience.
The 12 “best qualified” candidates were submitted to council.
Those candidates included Michael Frelinger, Gary King, Carl Schwing, Michael G. Mahaney, Duncan Ross Ballantyne, Charles Saddler and John J. McCue, all of whom reside in Florida, with King and Schwing being from Cape Coral.
Also included were Mark Watson and Charles R. Oliver from Arizona; David Fanslau from New York; Michael J. Stampfler from Alabama; and Donald D. Crawford from Michigan.
Council members added Deborah A. Edgerly, Nancy Carolan and Mark Lauzier from the “better qualified” list; Peter Sands from the “qualified” list; and Tom Leipold, who was not included in any of the tiers as staff had determined his application did not meet the advertised minimal qualification standards.
Pete Brandt could not be reached for comment Friday.