Six weeks after the former city administrator left the job as part of the transition to a new mayor, no appointment for a replacement has been made.
The vacancy has left Mayor Jeff Palmore to grapple with the day-to-day operation of the city and created an opening for aldermen to pressure Palmore to be let in on the selection process of choosing a successor for Harold Selby.
But Palmore made it clear at the Aug. 19 board meeting that the appointment of a city administrator is the mayor’s and the mayor’s alone job.
Palmore said he will appoint a new city administrator as soon as he receives an application from a candidate who looks right for the job.
“I have several applications, but none that I am considering for the job,” he said.
By state statute, the mayor of a fourth-class city is in charge of day-to-day operation of the city. He is not required to hire a city administrator, but can appoint one if he or she chooses.
Palmore said he definitely wants a city administrator, but will not fill the role until the right candidate applies for the job.
Aldermen have repeatedly said they want to be in on the process of selecting someone to run the city. They want to review applications and choose the person they think is best.
Aldermen Steve Myers, Ed Gass and Carol Johnson all raised questions about Palmore’s search for a city administrator at the Aug. 19 meeting.
“City administrator applications, have you been receiving them?” Myers asked.
The mayor responded that he had received several applications, but had not seen one from a candidate that he was interested in appointing.
Myers pressed to have the applications forwarded to an aldermanic committee for review.
“Is all that going to the administrative committee to help you?” Myers asked.
“No,” Palmore said. “If I have a recommendation, I’ll bring it to you but not until then.”
Alderman Ed Gass asked where the applications received so far were being kept. When Palmore said he was keeping them in his office, Gass suggested that they should be handed over to City Clerk Kim Barfield.
“Shouldn’t (the applications) be here in city hall since they are city property and should be under the records clerk, shouldn’t they?” Gass said.
At the June 17 board meeting, Gass made a motion, which was seconded by Myers and approved by the full board, that Barfield would open all the mail delivered to the city, including mail addressed to the mayor.
In response, Palmore opened a P.O. box before placing ads in several newspapers seeking applications for city administrator. The ad noted that applications be sent to the mayor and his P.O. box.
In response to Gass’ suggestion that the applications should be in the hands of the city clerk, Palmore said he would be happy to bring the applications to city hall and lock them up.
Alderman Carol Johnson said the applications belong in administration.
“The administration committee is your search committee, Jeff, for a city administrator or any personnel that you’re going to hire,” Johnson said. “Not that you can’t recommend somebody or give somebody to the administration.”
Palmore restated his willingness to bring the applications to city hall and lock them up, but offered no willingness to bring aldermen or a committee into a selection process before he was ready to appoint someone to the job.
Myers again pressed for aldermen to be in on the selection process.
“How would we ever know who is the best suited for the job?” Myers asked.
“The way the statute works is I make an appointment,” Palmore said.
“At the advice and approval of the board,” Myers answered.
“No,” Palmore said. “I make the appointment and then you can accept it, you can advise me or you canw reject it. You can advise me all you want once I make that appointment.”
In the same meeting, during a discussion on scheduling street repairs, Johnson lambasted Palmore for the delay in hiring someone to run the day-to day operations of the city.
“I’m going to make a very strong recommendation. You need to listen and listen very well,” Johnson said. “We need to get the staff in place in order to run those projects and those infrastructure repairs.”
After several meetings with Candlewick Lane residents, Johnson said officials were still quibbling over whether Candlewick would be first on the list of street repairs.
“I take that as wrong,” Johnson said. “I understand where Jeff is coming from. But that is why we’ve got to get our staff in place that runs the day-to day-operations and get this infrastructure in place and get it completed.”
Johnson said one individual cannot do all the jobs that need to be done in the city.
“I highly commend you, Jeff. You’re the most onhands street mayor I’ve ever seen in 14 years,” he said.
Palmore told Johnson that she recently had an opportunity to talk with him about city business and refused to participate in a conversation with him.
“Carol, I tried to talk to you the other day and you said to me, ‘I won’t talk about it. I don’t want to talk about it,’ ” Palmore said.
“You didn’t talk about the infrastructure,” Johnson said.
Palmore said he has tried to talk to Johnson about the selection process for staff to manage the city and she refused to have a discussion with him.
“Carol, I said I wanted somebody and you said, ‘I will not talk about it now,’ ” Palmore said.
“I was at work and you called me on my job,” Johnson responded.
“You didn’t call me back,” the mayor said.
Palmore said that aldermen will have the opportunity to fill their portion of the selection process by interviewing a candidate once he makes an appointment. He said his search for a new city administrator is taking longer than he had hoped.
“When I have an appointment I’ll bring (that person) to you,” he said.