While 24 people have applied to be Hendersonville’s first permanent city administrator, the public may have to wait nearly a month to learn who those applicants are.
The city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 7 to 6 in May to create the position of a city administrator, but to not fund the position until July of 2020.
In October, board members voted – again 7 to 6 - to begin the city administrator search immediately. However, Human Resources Manager Peter Voss said he was instructed to not advertise the position by Mayor Jamie Clary.
In November, board members appointed former Hendersonville Parks Director Dave LeMarbre as the city’s interim city administrator. LeMarbre started the position on Dec. 10.
In his new role, LeMarbre handles many of the responsibilities previously handled by the mayor including managing the city’s day-to-day operations and preparing the city’s annual budget.
During the Feb. 11 BOMA meeting LeMarbre gave an update on the hiring process for his successor.
LeMarbre said that the city received 24 applications for the position by the Jan. 31 deadline.
“So, we’re down to 12 really, really qualified candidates that have worked in city administrator/city manager positions in local government,” said LeMarbre. “mSo, we’ve got some really good, quality candidates and the committee will start evaluating those. I think we’re meeting the 26th or the 27th of February and then we’ll start narrowing those down.”
In a phone conversation on Tuesday LeMarbre said that 12 of the applicants were eliminated by human resources personnel because they did not meet the minimum requirements.
A committee comprised of Goodlettsville City Manager Tim Ellis, White House City Administrator Gerald Herman, Hendersonville Interim Human Resources Manager Chris Taylor and citizens Rick Fox and Rita Lea will narrow the list of applicants down to three, LeMarbre said. BOMA members will interview the final three and make their selection.
The Hendersonville Standard submitted an Open Records request on Feb. 5 for the resumes and applications of those who applied for the position by the Jan. 31 deadline.
Per state statute, a governmental entity has seven business days to respond to a request by either granting the request, denying the request or stating it needs more time to fill the request.
In an email sent on Feb. 14, City Recorder Kay Franklin said the request would be available on Feb. 28 – nearly a month after the application deadline.
“It is not practicable for the records you requested to be made promptly available for inspection and/or copying because the office is still in the process of retrieving, reviewing, and/or redacting the requested records,” the response says.
According to the city’s policy regarding the inspection and duplication of public records, requests for copies of public documents are to be processed by the mayor’s office.
Mayor: Information should be released sooner
Clary said on Tuesday that it shouldn’t take the city that long to release the information.
“Rarely should it take this long and not in this case,” he said.
Clary sent an email to LeMarbre on Tuesday asking that all information about city administrator applicants be made available to members of the board, the staff, the media and the public by noon on Friday, Feb. 21. He asked that all records requests regarding the applicants be filled by noon on Friday as well.
When asked if he’ll comply with Clary’s email, LeMarbre said he wasn’t comfortable with releasing the information before the committee narrowed the candidate pool down to three.
“I’m trying to keep the process as fair as possible and keep politics away from it as much as we can,” said LeMarbre. “By giving the aldermen the applications, I think it skews that fairness.”
LeMarbre said he plans to bring the issue up at the Tuesday, Feb. 25 BOMA meeting and let the full board decide when and to whom to release the information.
The city advertised the position in several national publications and websites seen by city managers and city administrators from across the country.
Minimum qualifications include a master’s degree in public administration or business administration and 10 years’ experience in municipal government including five years of administrative and supervisory experience, according to the ad. The applicant must be a member in good standing of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and must be an ICMA credentialed manager or receive those credentials within two years of employment. The salary range is $130,000 to $150,000 with salary starting in the minimum and midpoint range.
The advertisement also informed applicants that their information could become public.
“Under the Tennessee Public Records Act, once a candidate has submitted an application or other information (Resume, Cover Letter, etc.), that information becomes public,” read the advertisement. “If a Public Records Request involves any candidate’s information, appropriate confidential information will be redacted. Candidates can expect some degree of confidentiality, but it cannot be guaranteed.”