Open interviews conducted for city manager

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lewisburg city councilmen have come to grips with Tennessee's requirement for open meetings and their pending interviews with nine applicants for the job of city manager.

They know they can't bar anyone from attending their meetings when interviews are conducted, but there is at least the implication that applicants who watch interviews before they're interviewed could be seen as circumventing the council's desire for fairness and equal treatment of applicants.

That was the apparent consensus on Dec. 27 when councilmen met in a non-voting workshop to organize their questions and interview sessions. That Monday evening, they decided to provide City Hall officials with their schedules and suggested times for interviews.

Subsequently, two of 11 remaining applicants "have withdrawn," City Treasurer Connie Edde said Wednesday. "They've gotten other jobs."

Three of the nine applicants are city residents: Trigg Cathey, who's to be interviewed at 4 this afternoon; David Patrick Orr who is scheduled for an interview at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13; and Jeffery Allen England, whose time is 5:30 p.m. that Thursday.

Former City Manager Eddie Fuller retired in late October and has since been in an advisory role for the city as the council is searching for his successor.

A maximum salary of $80,000 has been discussed during council meetings as the compensation for the city's next manager.

The other applicants and their interview times are: Barbara Anne Bridgewater of Greenville, Tenn., 5:30 this evening; Charles E. Beal of McKenzie, Tenn., 5:30 p.m., Jan. 14; and all others on Saturday, Jan. 15.

They are: Alan L. Grindstaff of Texas, 10:30 a.m.; James L. Pennington of South Carolina, 1 p.m.; Gary Rawlings of West Virginia, 2:30 p.m.; and Alton E. Brown of South Carolina at 4 p.m.

Edde emphasized these times are tentative and subject to change.

Councilman Hershel Davis chaired the Dec. 27 workshop when questions and other aspects of the interviews were discussed. Mayor Barbara Woods was absent.

Few questions were stated aloud. They were on typed lists and referred to by their numbers on the list. Some that were stated aloud could be considered as a standard question for any job interview.

Councilman Ronald McRady recommended the councilmen ask the questions they prepared. There are a few that overlap, and they might be asked by different councilmen during different interviews.

It was clear from the discussion that the councilmen wanted each applicant to answer the same questions and that none should have an advantage because of the state's requirement for open meetings.

McRady mentioned the "Sunshine Law," saying applicants and their associates can't be barred from the meetings, and Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart reacted.

"We can tell them our preferences; that we'd rather they not [attend] if they want the job," Stewart said.

Councilman Robin Minor reacted: "I just can't imagine anyone doing that."

"Some people," Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. said, "might cut their own throat."