The Liberty Lake City Council balked at confirming the man Mayor Cris Kaminskas selected to be the next city administrator Tuesday night, choosing instead to start the process over.
Councilman Mike Kennedy said he objected to the council being cut out of the selection process. The council was not told how many people applied for the job or who applied, Kennedy said. They found out with the public who the top two candidates were and were not given time to speak to the candidates or discuss the issue, Kennedy said.
“The council has to be able to see all the applications, and not blacked out,” he said. “How can we say yes, we believe you’re making the right choice?”
Liberty Lake has a strong mayor form of government. By law, the mayor selects the city administrator, but the city council must confirm the mayor’s choice and approve the employment contract.
Kennedy also alluded to issues with the background of candidate Bradley Myers, whom Kaminskas selected and was in contract negotiations with. “This individual had a further challenge with the city he worked for,” he said.
According to a story in the Mascoutah Herald newspaper, Myers was fired from his previous job as city manager in Mascoutah, Illinois, in November. No reason was given, but the city’s mayor released a statement that said the city council had “lost the confidence, faith and trust in the relationship” with Myers.
Since then, according to the Herald, the city has filed a lawsuit against Myers for destruction of government property. The city alleges in the lawsuit that after he was fired, Myers deleted all information on his city-issued iPhone and iPad, possibly erasing city records required to be preserved, then refused to provide the passwords for the devices once he returned them.
Myers did not respond to a request for comment.
Kaminskas said in an interview Wednesday that Myers was fired shortly after a new mayor took office in Mascoutah and that it’s common for new mayors to want new staff. “It actually happened during the interview process,” she said. “He contacted me.”
She said she was also aware of the lawsuit filed against Myers before she offered him a contract. “I was satisfied with the information I got about it,” she said. “It was not a factor in my decision.”
Liberty Lake received about a dozen applications for the city administrator position after the previous city administrator, Katy Allen, announced her retirement after 10 years with the city. The pool of candidates was narrowed to four, who were all interviewed by Kaminskas, Allen and the city’s Human Resources manager.
From there, the field was narrowed to three, who were all interviewed by three panels – a panel of community members, a panel of representatives from agency partners such as the Spokane Valley Fire Department and Washington State Department of Transportation, and a panel of city department directors. The top two candidates – Myers and former Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus – then took part in a three-hour public open house so residents could come meet them and ask questions.
Kennedy said the council was not involved until the final step, the open house. He recommended hiring a recruiting firm to help with the city’s search. “The council has to be involved in all those levels,” he said. “We all have to be on the same page.”
Councilwoman Wendy Van Orman encouraged Kaminskas to include the council in the hiring process. “You want that buy-in,” she said. “We’re a team.”
Councilwoman Annie Kurtz said she agrees that the council has to be involved in the process, even though it is up to the mayor to select the candidate she prefers.
“The system works best when we all know there are checks and balances,” said councilman Chris Cargill.
The council can’t confirm the mayor’s selection if the council doesn’t have access to the same information the mayor does, Cargill said. “I think that’s where the process went sideways,” he said. “In this particular situation, the council did not have the information it needed.”
Kaminskas said Wednesday that she is researching recruiting companies and will have information to present at the next city council meeting on Feb. 1. “It sounds like the council wants to start over with a recruiting firm,” she said.
The council will have to approve a contract with a recruiting firm to conduct a search for the next city administrator.
While the search continues, Operations and Maintenance Director Jennifer Camp, whom Kaminskas said is “doing a fantastic job,” will continue to serve as interim city administrator.
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