A Citizen’s Letter to the Council: Get on with the Search for the City Manager

To the Ashland City Councilors & Mayor Akins

City Manager recruitment is suspended… Now,  will the City do the real work?

I just finished reviewing the Special Ashland City Council meeting (5/13/21) discussion of the City Manager Recruitment. Of Note:  Councilors Hyatt and Jensen (who requested the meeting) strongly emphasized the significance of rejection by two firms to work with the City on the CM recruitment.  Councilors Hyatt and Jensen both focused on the “risk” to Ashland’s reputation and the potential difficulty in hiring another reputable recruitment firm,  thus creating a barrier to obtaining a list of high quality CM applicants. Their presentation was carefully coordinated to convince.

Councilor Hyatt summarized emails sent from both firms to the City giving their reasons for withdrawing. However, the quoted emails do not appear in a packet attached to the meeting’s Agenda. Why not? I believe the City Council, Mayor and public should have been given the courtesy of seeing the emails as the emails appear to be the primary rationale for Councilor Hyatt’s motion to suspend the CM recruitment until after August 1, 2021. Councilor Moran was adamant that Councilors should not delay in serving Ashland residents who voted for hiring a experienced, well qualified City Manager that has a track record of reducing costs.  But, in my opinion, this motion to delay is not first critical factor that hampers the City’s ability to hire a qualified applicant before Adam Hank’s contract expires on Sept 1, 2021.

No CM recruitment can succeed until the Ashland City Council & Staff first conduct a constructive review of the specific & disturbing reasons two firms quit consulting the City. A review of the actual emails and other relevant correspondence is required. The partial jumbled generic list of reasons shown below was orally provided on 5/13/21.
First Firm:
On 5/13/21, Councilor Hyatt summarized the withdrawal reasons as:
Peckham and McKinney per Councilor Hyatt: (1) the new Mayor & Council are going thru “growing pains” and need to learn to work together, (2) the failed Fire Chief recruitment , (3) High turnover in a variety of  roles, (4) The City has an experienced candidate ( Adam Hanks) currently serving the City, (5) There are differing viewpoints on qualifications, (6) the financial situation in the City is significant and needs to be addressed.
Second Firm:
Wendi Brown ( WBCP) in May 7th email per Councilor Hyatt: (1) treated rudely (2) ethics were impinged (3) they were being asked to do things against the cumulative will of Council.

The Big Question:  Will the new City Council & Mayor direct Staff to candidly & objectively examine & present to the City Council the critical elements that have resulted in the internal dysfunction referenced by the two firms? Or, is this “ Audit”  a job for an outside source NOT wedded to the status quo?

Concurrent action needed:
Simultaneously, the City must now develop a detailed WORKPLAN to begin CM recruitment in order to not lose valuable weeks this summer.

A WORKPLAN should identify activities needed by certain dates. (Step-by-step).
A WORKPLAN should identify key OBJECTIVES.
A WORKPLAN should identify the knowledgable people who will define the OBJECTIVES’ details.
If experienced WORKPLAN development individuals need to be hired from outside, then hire them.

At Present:
The City Council needs to pass a motion NOW directing the HR Director to: (1) consult with the League of Oregon Cities (LOC), (2) place ads in City Managers’ professional magazines (3) gather names & verify resumes for the City Council to begin to review.  

Thank You.
Susan Hall RN

Susan Hall will speak at the June , business meeting of the council.