Barnstable Town Manager Search Committee To Make Presentation November 5

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Town Manager Search Committee Chairman Eric Steinhilber, committee member Town Councilor James Crocker and at large committee member Phyllis Miller, as well as Town Councilor Frederick Chirigotis, who was in the audience at the meeting, check their calendars to schedule the next meeting.

At the Town Manager Search Committee’s October 13 meeting, Search Committee Chairman Eric Steinhilber, committee member Town Councilor James Crocker and at large committee member Phyllis Miller look at their calendars to schedule their next meeting. Town Councilor Frederick Chirigotis is at right, in the audience.

HYANNIS – Barnstable’s Town Manager Search Committee will give a report to the full town council at the council’s next meeting on November 5, but that report will not come with a recommendation.

Three firms submitted bids to conduct the search through a quote process. The process requires the low bidder be chosen. But the committee did not take a final vote on a recommendation to choose the low bidder.

Also on the council’s agenda for November 5 is a first reading of the search committee’s request for $34,999 to use to hire an outside firm to conduct a global search for a new town manager.

The search committee’s vice chair Town Councilor Sara Cushing had asked that the committee’s report be a bullet item on the town council’s agenda under committee reports, in order to alert the public to the discussion.

Cushing said she believes the committee’s report “warrants its own discussion outside of the appropriation conversation.”

She said, “I think the full council deserves a report of all the work we’ve done as a subcommittee and bring them up to speed on the most recent information related to the three proposals that were submitted to the town for consideration.”

The charge of the Town Manager Search Committee is make recommendations on the search process to the town council, according to the minutes of the committee’s first meeting when Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti, outlined the charge of the committee.

The committee through the town’s Chief Procurement Officer Johanna Boucher, solicited three bids from firms for a global search for a new town manager for the town of Barnstable.

The process began with some dispute over whether there was an opening for a town manager at all.

Rapp-Grassetti said she had asked Barnstable Town Manager Thomas Lynch for a letter stating his intentions.

But he denies she made the request.

The “he said, she said” dispute simmered for months and even emerged while the search committee was talking with a search firm. Richard Kobayashi of the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts at Boston told search committee members that he believed there was confusion over whether the town manager job was available or not and that would negatively affect the search.

He also told the search committee that it is typically the job of the town council to reach out to the current town manager to begin a process of renewing or extending a contract.

Those comments did not sit well with a couple of the search committee members. Both the committee’s chairman Eric Steinhilber and search committee member Ann Canedy, who is vice president of the town council, said they did not appreciate the comments and felt that Kobayashi had overstepped his bounds.

But committee members Sara Cushing and Paul Hebert both said they appreciated the comments from Kobayashi.

Hebert said, Kobayashi’s comments were in response to a comment he made about concerns about the search process and the uncertainty over whether the town manager was interested in continuing in the job.

The matter appeared to be resolved when Lynch, unaware of the search committee’s vote to send him a letter asking his intentions, released a letter stating that given that a majority of the town council had voted to conduct an outside search for a new town manager, he would not be seeking to renew his contract.

But the search committee had one more surprise in store. Committee members were expecting to be able to choose between the Collins Center and GovHR USA, the two firms that had come in for informational interviews, but a last minute third bid meant that they had no choice but to take the low bid, which came from Collins.

Once the bids from search firms came in and the Collins Center was found to be the low bidder, some search committee members sought to find a way to choose GovHR rather than take the low bidder.

Search committee member James Crocker, who is the town councilor from Osterville, said, Joellen Earl of GovHR USA, was clearly giving more service for the money with her bid.

Steinhilber suggested that a portion of the bid, the expenses, could be reduced, since they are a variable. That reduction would make GovHR the low bidder, he said.

But Boucher cautioned that the bids could not be adjusted after the fact and that councilors were obligated to take the low bid. Restarting the process, she said, could not be done without a stated reason.

At this week’s search committee meeting, Boucher gave a report on references she checked on two of the bidders, Collins Center and GovHR.

She did not give information on references for the third bidder, Municipal Resources Inc., out of New Hampshire.

The references she received for Collins and GovHR were all positive, she said.

Steinhilber did not call for a vote on a recommendation. He said the quotes would go before the full council.

Canedy said the council would need to take the low bidder, but Crocker said that was not necessarily the case.

“They may vote all of a sudden to go inside or something. We don’t know. They may not want to do this at all. I mean, you just don’t know,” he said.

Steinhilber agreed. “Our recommendation is to go with the full process and Collins has submitted the low bid,” Steinhilber said, without including a recommendation for Collins.

In addition to the search committee’s report, the budget item is on the Town Council’s November 5 agenda, as well. The search committee has voted to ask for $34,999, just under the $35,000 limit for a request for proposal process.

After the meeting, Cushing said the current committee should be dissolved and additional councilors would be added to the committee. Cushing had said at an earlier meeting of the committee that she had met with the town council president Rapp-Grassetti to ask that the committee be dissolved but that Rapp-Grassetti was not in favor of that.

But, according to Cushing, the council president has changed her mind and is now in favor of dissolving the committee and reconstituting it.

Cushing said the search committee’s process has not been without challenges.

“I think we definitely had our bumps in the road. But I think we accomplished the task that we were given and have been as transparent as possible and forthright in our efforts. And I think we came out with a good product to present to our councilors for debate,” she said.

Search committee members agreed to meet just before the November 5 Town Council meeting to vote on the final set of minutes to, as Crocker put it, “close the books,” on this phase of the committee’s process.


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