Cost rises to find Los Banos city manager

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comDecember 27, 2012 

The process of finding a city manager, originally estimated to take four months, will continue into 2013 and cost $4,000 more.

The once-looming November election and an inability by City Council members to come to agreement both played a part in the failure to find an executive.

According to a news release, the city will continue the recruitment process with Teri Black & Co. The firm was hired in April with a proposal of $17,500 plus estimated expenses of $7,000 to $8,500, for a total of $24,500 to $26,000.

A new release Thursday from Acting City Manager Gary Brizzee's office said the city will pay Teri Black & Co. $4,000 more, for a total of no more than $29,500.

"None of us want to spend any more money than we have to and we are most concerned about completing this process as efficiently as possible and within a reasonable budget," Mayor Mike Villalta said, in the release.

In February, City Council will meet again with the recruiter to assess the applicant pool, according to the release.

Former City Manager Steve Rath announced on Feb. 3 he would end his 13-year tenure on Oct. 31.

Recruitment began in May after City Council approved brochures, and later asked residents to take an online survey to educate candidates on public opinion. City Council voted to leave the salary off the recruitment brochure.

The recruiter, Teri Black-Brann, provided a timeline to the city estimating council would be able to hire a city manager as early as late August. However, August came and went without an appointment.

Villalta in August said City Council was poised to begin interviews in September.

In October, after Rath's official retirement, City Council appointed Los Banos Police Chief Brizzee to the acting city manager position. He is serving both roles simultaneously, earning $10,937 per month, the bottom end of the city manager pay range and $770 more per month than he made as police chief alone.

In the midst of election season, members of the council blamed one another for the failure to appoint a permanent city manager after six months.

Villalta said the process was delayed because former Councilman Joe Sousa, who was running against Villalta for mayor at the time, missed a final meeting in the search process.

Sousa missed the meeting because of complications from surgery.

In October, Sousa said the process had pared more than 40 applicants down to "two or three," and the mayor was dragging his feet intentionally.

Councilman Scott Silveira, who was not running for office in October, said all members of City Council shared blame for not lining up their schedules for the final meeting to hire a city manager.

The search effectively stalled during the November election, which was certified Nov. 26.

Councilwoman Deborah Lewis, who replaced Sousa after he lost the mayoral race, was sworn in Dec. 5. The release said Lewis will be given "an opportunity to be brought up to speed on the recruitment process."

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

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