Council Executive Search 3.0

The search has entered another phase. With two candidates over the past year having declined the position, the Pensacola City Council decided today to look to an outside agency in its continued search for a council executive.

“Like a Landrum,” Council President Sam Hall told the board.

Hall said that after meeting with City Administrator Bill Reynolds, he thought an employment agency might be a reasonable option. The outside agency, he said, would probably land the council with an acceptable executive.

“But, if for some reason, it doesn’t work out,” Hall continued, “the one nice thing about Landrum is they’ll send  you somebody else.”

Other council members had concerns about how the city charter addressed such a move, or if the board should turn to the next candidate on an already existing list. There were also questions raised about who exactly—the city council or the mayor—the eventual employee would answer to.

“Who fires that person?” Councilwoman Sherri Myers asked.

Councilman John Jerralds wanted to know why the board had previously ranked its top choices for the position.

“Why did we rank the four candidates?” he asked. “How did we get from not going with the second person on the list and going to Landrum?”

Councilwoman Megan Pratt thought the Landrum idea might work, but wondered if the agency dealt in the caliber of candidates the board was seeking—“it’s somebody that really needs some knowledge, skill. Some research ability.”

Hall assured her the company handled all level of staffing needs, including the executive variety. The president also said he was once employed under Landrum; Myers would later tell the board that she is employed by Landrum as well.

Abandoning the hiring process—ditching current candidates—concerned several council members. Councilman P.C. Wu questioned the board’s ability to go with Hall’s Landrum-suggestion—“for us to say, ‘we think this would be nice,’ to wave a magic wand …”

The city administrator told the board he didn’t see any conflict with the charter when it came to farming out the position. Reynolds also noted that he found the Landrum idea “interesting,” and said it would probably cancel out any existing city employees—who enjoy the benefits of such employ—to “become, essentially, an at-will employee.”

The matter of who the executive would answer to—as well as the deeper charter-related issues that subject drifts into—arose repeatedly throughout the meeting. Several council members insisted the employee answer to the legislative body.

“I want whoever we hire to be independent from the office of the mayor,” said Myers.

The city administrator would later stress that, ultimately, the council executive would answer to the executive branch. He told council members that Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office preferred not to make the charter an issue.

“But if it becomes a charter issue and a charter question,” Reynolds continued, “then it become the mayor’s responsibility to make you understand … I just don’t want this to get bogged down in the issue of the charter.”

The council’s discussion today also touched on race. Councilman Jerralds suggested the board was not pursuing the next candidate in line on the ranking system because she is black; he also said that might have been the reason the board’s original choice did not end up taking the job.

“Then the question really becomes does it have to do with the race of Scotty Davis, or the number two?” Jerralds asked.

The councilman said he contacted Davis—the candidate selected last fall—and was told the city never offered him the job.

“He was never contacted and officially offered the position by anybody here with the city of Pensacola,” Jerralds said. “—this doesn’t make any sense. I’m just not able to connect the dots in this game of simple foolishness.”

Though Jerralds’ race-related charge was later echoed by Councilman Ronald Townsend, other members disputed the claim. The city administrator took issue with the job-extension claim—“Mr. Davis was offered the position. Mr. Davis declined the position. That’s all I can tell you. We have documentation of that.”

Reynolds later defended an accusation from that the mayor’s office had “derailed” the hiring: “I dare say that there is no one that is more interested in finding a council executive than Mr. Reynolds. When I found out Mr. Davis didn’t want the job I was stunned. I went into epileptic shock when I found out your second choice didn’t want it.”

Townsend referred to the Hall’s Landrum-suggestion as “totally ridiculous” and said the council should stick with the ranked list created during a May 24 meeting instead of “coming up with some different kind of hogwash.” The councilman also said the board was shying away from an already selected minority candidate.

“We all know this is an African-American female,” he said. “And we have an opportunity to hire her.”

The councilman would soon walk out of the meeting, which ran for barely more than an hour. Jerralds would later leave, then return. Councilmen Brian Spencer and Larry Johnson were never in attendance.

The council wrapped up the meeting by voting on seeking the aid of Landrum Human Resource Companies, which they approved. After some consideration, the board decided to caveat the motion—if someone could show that the board previously agreed to stick with its ranked list, then council would revert back to the list.

Upon a suggestion that the board minutes be consulted, Reynolds cautioned that such an agreement would have to have been officially contained within the motion.

“The needs to understand,” he said, “that a discussion is not a promise.”