The issue: The Gardner city administrator search is in a holding pattern, and there are questions about how consultants involved in the process were paid.
Our View: The questions must be answered and council must find a way to find a solution to the hiring challenge.
Gardner’s search for a new city administrator has been long, burdensome and contentious.
The search for a new administrator began when former administrator Stewart Fairburn announced his resignation in February for a job in Oklahoma.
Seven months later, there is no end in sight.
The council has yet to publicly discuss or act on the mayor’s Sept. 14 announcement that Mike Press would replace Melissa Mundt as interim city administrator and a new administrative search would begin. Press most recently served as an interim administrator for Edgerton and is a former Johnson County manager.
Most recently in the ongoing saga, at Gardner’s Oct. 10 meeting, council member Larry Fotovich continually requested information regarding candidate background checks as well as itemized information. Fotovich asked why payment was made to the consulting firm in an amount $4,500 above the $11,000 the council had approved.
His requests were met with obvious annoyance.
Mayor Dave Drovetta denied Fotovich’s request and abruptly adjourned the meeting saying as mayor, he said no.
The big question is: Why is this information secret? It’s public business, and as an elected official – or even a private citizen – it should be available. And if sensitive information is involved, why not allow Fotovich time with the human resources director to review the documents privately?
If everything is on the up-and-up, why make it an issue?
Discussion and differing opinions are good, but power struggles are poor government. No matter which camp you’re in – Fotovich or Drovetta or somewhere in between – you have to shake your head at this flawed process and wonder if anyone is winning in this situation.
Once, if ever, we hire a new administrator there are several things to consider including:
-Reviewing charter ordinances that concentrate too much power with the mayoral position and strip council members of power.
-Whether with a population approaching 20,000 it’s time to consider a city manager form of government.
We need to quit pointing fingers and start finding solutions.