OV Search Committee and council move forward in town manager search

Date Published: 
December 2, 2011

The Ocean View Search Committee met on Nov. 28 to discuss the advertisement and the receipt of résumés for the town manager position.

The committee was formed following the Nov. 8 town council meeting, at which it was announced that the town would be terminating the employment contract of former town manager Conway Gregory, without cause, four months before that contract was due to expire.

This week, Acting Town Manager and Finance Director Lee Brubaker presented the committee with a rough draft of a possible newspaper advertisement for the position.

The committee, while discussing the requirements to be considered, determined that an applicant holding a bachelor’s degree was “highly desired” but not required if they have significant relevant experience.

Committee Chairman and Councilman Tom Sheeran said that he feels strongly that the new town manager should live in Delaware. The committee decided to follow the wording of the Town of Fenwick Island’s previous advertisement for town manager applicants, which stated that, “the applicant must be willing to relocate within a reasonable distance.”

“Then discuss it at the interview stage,” suggested Sheeran.

Mayor Gordon Wood and Councilman Bob Lawless, who both serve on the committee, agreed that they hope the applicants will live nearby and be actively involved in the “fabric of the community.”

Brubaker reminded the committee that many of the area residents retired from jobs that required them to commute a fair distance, sometimes across states.

“It is still just a job,” he said. “For someone to love the community, I’m not sure that’s a requirement. You have to be nice… What’s reasonable for some people might not be reasonable for others.”

Sheeran suggested that the committee submit the advertisement to newspapers outside of Delaware, in larger cities, including Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Lawless said that he was opposed to that idea, due to the possibility of the interviewee asking if the town would pay for the travel for the interview or to relocate the successful applicant to Ocean View.

“People who want to relocate to this area are looking at the local paper,” he said.

The committee decided that the advertisement will be placed in the Coastal Point, the Wave, the News Journal and the (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times.

Brubaker noted that he would also be able to have it placed on the Web site for the International City Managers Association.

The committee set Jan. 3 as the deadline to receive applications for the position. Brubaker noted he has a checklist for the process and suggested sending out letters to all applicants. He suggested a first round of letters be sent to those in whom the town is not interested but saying, “thanks for your interest,” followed by a second mailing of letters confirming to acceptable candidates the receipt of their résumé and that it is being considered by the committee.

Once the committee has determined whom they wish to reach for an interview, a third round of letters will be sent to inform the applicants.

“Everybody gets an acknowledgement. If you take the time to send us a resume, we’ll let you know that we’ve got it. Separately from that, we want to separate the sheep from the goats,” said Lawless.

The committee determined that the résumés received would go to the town clerk, as to not add to Brubaker’s already increased workload and to ensure there is no “possibility of the appearance of impropriety.” A special email address will also be set up solely for the committee to access and receive emailed résumés for the position.

Wood, Lawless and Sheeran said they had already either received résumés or had been asked about accepting résumés for the position. Wood said that he had received two or three and, without opening them, had given them to Marie Thomas, the town clerk, to hold onto until the application process officially begins.

Brubaker suggested that the committee not receive résumés outside of the advertisement’s solicitation.

“They should follow the same process,” he said.

“I don’t think we should exclude people from the process,” replied Lawless, adding that members will need to make it crystal clear that any résumés received by the members of the committee directly will be handled like all other applications received.

The committee determined that, following the application deadline, they would meet for an initial review of the applications, bringing their own recommendations as to who should be cut and which candidates are top picks. If the committee has conflicts regarding an application, a vote will be taken, with the majority ruling.

They also said that the other two council members, Michele Steffens and Geoff Christ, will not be brought into the résumé review process until the applications have been narrowed down to about 10 candidates.

“It will be a real time-consuming job,” said Wood. “I think that we’re going to clutter up the process if we ask all five members to review them, except in a final cut, when you get it down to a dozen or so. We’re really going to clutter up the process.”

At their subsequent meeting on Nov. 29, the council voted 4-0 to approve the advertisement, with an application cutoff date of Jan. 3, 2012.

The search committee will meet again on Dec. 5, at 9:30 a.m. in the Wallace A. Melson Municipal Building.

Wood also noted this week that it is important for the council to address Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin’s contract, which is set to expire April 30, 2014, and stipulates that he “shall be under the direction and control of the mayor.”

Wood stated that he had spoken with McLaughlin, who had said he was open to the idea of limited delegation of authority over the department to the new town manager.

“I believe that should end,” said Wood of McLaughlin reporting solely to the mayor. “The only way I know how to end that without changing unilaterally is to go through a delegation process – both parties renegotiate the contract, but we cannot force a unilateral contact,” he said. “It’s my personal belief that that could be solved by the mayor delegating to the town manager almost all of that, so that the town manager would have responsibility — real police-work decisions.”

Sheeran said that he had spoken to a former town manager who had worked in towns both where the police chief did report to the town manager and where he or she didn’t. In towns where the police chief reported to the mayor, that former town manager told Sheeran that there were detailed limitations “on how and what he can deal with with the chief of police.”

“If we had a fire department, I would not want him telling the fire chief how to put a fire out,” said Sheeran.

“We need to know that the town manager is not going to be involved microscopically in the activities of any of the departments,” agreed Lawless.

Wood said he had drafted a document further detailing the possible delegations and would present it to the council for their consideration.