By Jane Smith
Delray Beach will allow its Human Resources Department to conduct a search for city manager candidates, a majority of the commission agreed at a special meeting held on Jan. 19.
Faced with the higher cost of hiring a search firm, about $55,000, versus the lower cost of an internal recruitment process at $7,000, three commissioners decided to go for the lower cost approach.
Using an outside search firm “is the wrong choice because the cost is wrong in these pandemic times,” said Deputy Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson. “And it didn’t work the last two times.”
The commission ended up firing Mark Lauzier and George Gretsas, two recent city managers found by outside search firms.
An outside search firm would cost the city an average of $50,000, plus costs for candidates’ travel and lodging at $2,000, and then hosting a reception and tour could be an additional $3,000, according to Ebony Olivier, a Human Resources generalist.
Using an internal recruitment method, Olivier estimated, the advertising cost would be $2,000 to the various job websites and specialty associations, such as the International City/County Management Association. The travel, lodging, reception and tour costs would be similar.
Commissioner Adam Frankel said he preferred to let the new commission make that decision. City Commission elections will be held in March.
“But if we can’t do that, I say we give it to Ms. Alvarez,” Frankel said. Jennifer Alvarez, the former purchasing director, has been interim city manager since late June. “I haven’t seen employee morale this high at City Hall,” he added.
Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston did not attend the special meeting.
The last time the city used an internal recruitment process for a city manager was in 2012, Olivier said. That search produced Louie Chapman as the city manager.
Chapman eventually was let go by the City Commission in mid-2014, after the body tried to fire him but did not have the required four commission votes. Chapman received nearly $73,000 in taxpayer money as severance.
Johnson wanted to involve a citizen advisory committee to help review the initial selection of qualified candidates. Doing so would add another month to the selection process, Olivier said.
“I think we should do this in stages and see what comes in,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said. “Most people are not aware of how the city works. City employees are the most impacted by this decision.”
A lawsuit against the city filed by Lauzier has been postponed to start sometime between April 26 and May 21. He is seeking a jury trial. The county court system recently started holding jury trials in criminal cases that had previously been delayed because of pandemic concerns.
Delray Beach fired Lauzier in March 2019 and he sued the city for wrongful dismissal in April 2019.