Council mulling over personnel issues

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lewisburg councilmen are drafting questions for applicants who want to be the next city manager and simultaneously revising qualifications for those who'd like to be the city's next codes officer and stormwater coordinator.

Discussion on those two employment opportunities were heard Friday afternoon in City Hall where councilmen generally agreed that Lewisburg's next codes officer and stormwater coordinator will need more than a drivers license and a high school diploma.

Computer and people skills, they said, are needed among other things not stated in a legal notice published here on a request that emerged from discussion among councilmen during a previous workshop when no vote was taken for the help-wanted advertisement.

Attending the meeting during such discussion was Jim Rucker of Lewisburg who's spent his life in the construction trades. After the non-voting workshop, Rucker said he felt that the responsibilities of enforcing building codes would not be a problem for him.

Recently promoted Industrial Development Director Greg Lowe has said he will continue to try to provide codes and stormwater enforcement services, but he says the recessionary economy here lightened the load. Still, he doesn't want his successor in codes and stormwater enforcement to start the job with a backlog of tasks.

There is, however, a huge responsibility facing the next stormwater director. The city has been assessed civil penalties by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for poor documentation of its efforts to follow federal requirements at construction sites, new subdivisions and other places soil erosion threatens clean water. A state order must be followed to prevent more fines.

As a result, the next codes and stormwater officer must have more than a high school education and a driver's license, Councilman Robin Minor said, calling the position "the fourth highest administrative position in the city."

Councilman Ronald McRady suggested that the city stop running the help-wanted advertisement. Others agreed and councilmen also wanted an opinion from City Attorney Steve Broadway about the effect of the discontinued ad on the council's decisions.

Qualifications for the codes and stormwater officer applicants are to be provided to City Hall staff so that they may be considered during another session of the Council starting at 4 p.m. on Dec. 27. The council's regular monthly meeting was conducted Tuesday.

"You're doing personnel," Mayor Barbara Woods observed as the discussion was coming to a close.

Minor replied, "We're just doing qualifications."

Referring to the help-wanted ad published in response to the previous workshop's discussion, McRady pointed out, "In all fairness [to city personnel responding to the apparent will of the elected leaders] this council did say we'd get applications so the new city manager could hire" the next codes-stormwater officer.

Lewisburg's charter places hiring and firing duties on the city manager, one of three positions filled by a council vote: manager, attorney and recorder-treasurer.

Discussion that afternoon on how interviews should be conducted focused on questions, procedures and how to be sure no applicant had an advantage because of a city action or omission.

"They all have to be asked the same questions," the mayor said.

"But," Minor responded, "it's based on more" because references are to be checked and there will be other sources of information that could help or hurt an applicant's chances of being hired.

"Tell it to the judge," Woods told Minor in an apparent reference to the prospect of a challenge to the council's selection.

Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. mentioned the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, but also reported that he'd interviewed an applicant who fell asleep during the job interview.

Councilmen have submitted 90 questions to be asked during the manager interviews. They concede that some will be similar. Discussion shows they might have 15-16 questions for each of the applicants.

There were 11 applicants to be scheduled for interviews as of Friday. Whitehead confirmed that he and probably other councilmen hope that some applicants will disqualify themselves by recognizing the city can't or probably won't pay more than $80,000 annually to the next city manager.

During the council's 4 p.m., Dec. 27 workshop, city leaders anticipate finalizing the questions for the applicants.

Interviews will probably start shortly after New Year's Day and Whitehead indicated there's a preference to have a decision by mid-February.