The City Council has moved forward with hiring an executive search firm to help it find Modesto’s next city manager, but not before two council members raised questions about the cost and why it has taken so long to fill the position.
Council members Jenny Kenoyer and Doug Ridenour said at Tuesday’s council meeting that council members had been told it would cost Modesto no more than $23,500 to hire Sacramento-based CPS HR Consulting. A city report and the council meeting agenda both cited that amount.
But the city’s contract with CPS states the city also is responsible for paying as much as $6,500 of the consultant’s expenses and as much as $5,000 for candidate expenses, bringing Modesto’s total cost to as much as $35,000. Expenses include advertising, candidate background checks and travel costs to bring finalists in for interviews.
Kenoyer and Ridenour also were concerned about how long it has taken the council to fill the position. Modesto has not had a city manager for more than eight months after the March 31 departure of Jim Holgersson. Deputy City Manager Joe Lopez has been filling in, first as as acting and then interim city manager.
And it is expected to take 14 to 16 weeks to fill the job once CPS HR Consulting holds its initial meeting with the council to develop a candidate profile and recruitment strategy. “We will be over a year that we don’t have a city manager,” Ridenour said.
He also questioned whether a council ad-hoc committee that will work as a liaison between the council and consultant will provide the full council with all of the information regarding the search.
Council members mentioned the committee several times before Councilman Mani Grewal said it was important to let the public know who is on the committee. Mayor Ted Brandvold appointed himself, Grewal and Councilman Tony Madrigal.
The three can be part of a four-vote majority along with Councilwoman Kristi Ah You on the seven-member council., though Grewal is the council’s swing vote.
“The ad-hoc committee —you are three of a kind,” former Mayor Carmen Sabatino said during public comment. He also criticized the city for not being clear about how much the search will cost, calling it an example of bait-and-switch.
Brandvold and Grewal said the committee will be open and transparent “The council will make the decision,” Grewal said. “T’his should be a process that the entire council is involved in, from zero to finish.”
Ah You said the ad-hoc committee has her full confidence.
Grewal said Modesto has been in good hands with Lopez. He said Lopez took over during a time of transition for the city, with several department heads leaving, and worked with the council to stabilize the city.
Brandvold has said the position has been vacant this long because it has taken this long for the council to reach consensus on how to fill the position. The council has met in closed session several times since late September to talk about the position.
In the end, the council voted 6-0 to authorize Brandvold to negotiate and execute an agreement with CPS HR Consulting. Councilman Bill Zoslocki was not at Tuesday’s meeting.
Brandvold said after the meeting Modesto will conduct a nationwide search. He said while the details need to be worked out, he intends for the public to be involved in the selection process. Some cities hold forums for finalists to meet with residents.
“The city manager works for the citizens of the city,” Brandvold said. “Why wouldn’t the public have involvement?”