DeKalb City Council members outline process for hiring new city manager

April 10, 2018 GMT

DeKALB – In the search to find a new city manager for the city of DeKalb, council members reached consensus Monday on a number of stipulations, such as a firmer residency requirement and the use of an external search firm for assistance.

The council reserved an entire Committee of the Whole meeting to give the public an understanding of the process to replace Anne Marie Gaura, who resigned last month. Human Resources Director Cris Randall outlined different elements of the recruitment process and asked for council consideration in how to move forward.

Most of the aldermen favored the use of an external search firm, which had been used to hire Gaura, in order to broaden the number of candidates. They also agreed to the use of a steering committee composed of the mayor, one alderman and a human resources official to assist with the process.

First Ward Alderman David Jacobson warned that there is a significant lack of trust in City Hall, so he proposed looking into local candidates the public knows and trusts before jumping into the open market.

“[Mistrust] is spreading like wildfire,” Jacobson said.

There also was wide support for a residency requirement for the city manager, but instead of obtaining residency within 12 months, which was the stipulation when Gaura was hired, council members wished to see a six-month timeline.

After detailing each element of the process, Randall said a request for a proposal likely is to be submitted this week. Throughout the search, DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith has said the process will be open and transparent.

Three DeKalb residents spoke during the public comment period.

DeKalb resident Dwayne Brown said that in addition to the technical requirements, such as a background in analytics and strong organizational skills, the right city manager candidate must have a 24-7-365 commitment to the community, an ability to engage with the community and the humbleness to take direction from the mayor and City Council.

“Being a city manager is not a typical CEO-type of job,” Brown said. “To be successful, a city manager needs to get his or her hands dirty.”

Condemnation update

“Unconscionable” and “reprehensible” were some of the words thrown around during the public participation portion of Monday’s City Council meeting regarding the condemnation of Lord Stanley’s Bar on Friday.

Former Mayor Bessie Chronopoulos said there was a lack of compassion and a lack of common sense to condemn a building and give upstairs tenants the impression they would be forced out Monday.

Smith and City Attorney Dean Frieders both maintained that they felt the city did the right thing in condemning the building until repairs could be made.

Smith acknowledged that although the decision may not have been business friendly, he wrestled with the idea that a floor could give way, and he had to put public safety above all else.

“After hearing what has occurred since Friday afternoon and realizing that we probably could’ve handled a few things differently, I remained steadfast that we tried to do the right thing,” Smith said.

Frieders said if the problems had been observed by the fire prevention officer and chief building official but nothing was done about it, there not only would have been legal issues, but there would have been a fundamental failure to protect the public.

Community development director Jo Ellen Charlton and chief building official Thaddeus Mack reviewed the city’s cooperation with property owners over the past three days and detailed the violations observed within the building.

Should the work on Lord Stanley’s be completed, which has been underway over the weekend, the condemnation is anticipated to be lifted as early as Tuesday, Charlton said.

To ensure a future situation doesn’t get handled the same way, Smith suggested holding a Committee of the Whole meeting focusing solely on condemnation procedures and how to handle ordinance violations.