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City to advertise legislative assistant position

By Staff | Jun 25, 2013

City council has a process in place to find a new legislative assistant. Now, what it wants is more candidates.

At a special meeting Monday morning at City Hall, the city council approved an open posting of 10 days to the public, after which a panel consisting of Mayor John Sullivan, human resources, and outgoing legislative assistant Kelley Fernandez, among others, will review the applicants and bring the finalists to council for final review.

The vote was 5-2, with councilmembers Rana Erbrick and John Carioscia dissenting. Councilmember Lenny Nesta was absent.

The meeting was called to discuss how the opening would be filled. Among the discussion items was the position, which was first listed internally, only had one inside candidate apply for the job.

Second, there was question as to whether the process chosen would be in compliance with the city charter.

Councilmember Marty McClain was especially concerned how the hiring method would affect the public trust.

“If taken on face value, if you don’t like how the public voted, you can change it. I’d be uncomfortable with that,” McClain said.

Voters previously rejected a charter amendment that would have created a special reporting process for employees working directly for elected officials.

Sullivan said there should be no problem with the process, since it hasn’t been challenged before, which he showed by pulling out previous documents,

“I was glad council understood that we didn’t want to put ourselves in a bad position,” Sullivan said. “We need to show continuity. Otherwise, the public can’t anticipate what our moves are going to be. Had they gone the other way I wouldn’t have done anything. We need to use the same process over and over unless we find something better.”

The issue was that the position was under the city manager prior to a 2002 charter referendum to have city council hire city council staff, which was defeated.

Some on council at the time thought it would be construed as a violation if council gave direction to the two people in the council office, Erbrick said.

Council later crafted an ordinance that created the city council office. The hiring process issue was discussed because the charter supersedes any ordinance.

“Now, we’re struggling down the road how we want to proceed with this and if the process over the last 10 years has worked well,” Erbrick said. “I believe it hasn’t worked as well as we would have liked because every time we’re looking for a replacement, we go through this and circumvent our normal hiring process.”

Erbrick said as a result of that, and the confusion over the process and “Who’s the Boss,” they can’t get qualified candidates internally, and that, to her, is a travesty.

“One person out of 1,200 applied. That has got to tell you something right there. For a lot of people in lower positions, this is a bump up,” Erbrick said. “This should tell us we’re not doing something right.”

Erbrick said council should consider the single applicant to see if she is right for the job, and, if not, then repost the position internally before seeking outside candidates.

“This mayor believes it’s his perview and our concern is he hires the person who’s the best fit for him but not necessarily the best fit for office,” Erbrick said. “That’s where my no vote came.”

Sullivan said the process that was voted on makes sense, since this person will be his assistant and he knows what the job entails.

“That doesn’t mean the internal candidate isn’t going to win. She’s going to have advantages, knowing how city processes work,” Sullivan said. “If we get more outside candidates with better skill sets, it’s a balancing act.”