Larry Fotovich
It’s unfortunate that two candidates withdrew from the city administrator recruitment process, but Gardner doesn’t need a chief executive who will quit at the first sign of controversy.  Better to know that sooner than later.
Although the mayor characterized the quitters as “the top two candidates,” this is only one of many errors, omissions and lapses in logic that comprised his press release.
True, one of those candidates had unanimous support amongst council members, but not with Mayor Drovetta, and by the time he finally agreed to consider the council’s wishes and make the offer, he was curiously one day too late.
The mayor claimed that this candidate withdrew because of my letter to the Gardner News.  That is not true.
The Sept.6 minutes of this candidate’s own council meeting indicate that he was offered a $10,464 pay raise in exchange for withdrawing his name from consideration for the Gardner city administrator position.  It would appear from this action that he was highly regarded by his current mayor but only reluctantly so by ours.
Regardless of what the mayor claims, we all know that comfort with one’s current employer and a nice fat raise are a tough combination to beat—especially when the city one is considering has endured five years of conflict and divisiveness.
That candidate’s withdrawal letter came nine days before the mayor issued his press release—more than enough time for the mayor to do some basic fact-checking, if he really wanted to set the record straight.
The mayor claimed that there was a breach of confidentiality which compromised the recruitment process.  That is not true.
Before any interviews took place, our recruiter assured us that every candidate who was currently employed had notified their respective governing bodies of their intent.
I have confirmed with Council Member Chris Morrow that my recollection of this statement is correct, but I encourage anyone who wants additional documentation to contact any council member or the mayor and ask them to verify the origin of the e-mail we received on Aug.4 from one of the three finalists.
That finalist sent us a “thank you” note from his city’s e-mail address, which I doubt he would have risked doing, if his employer hadn’t already known of his intentions.
You might also wonder how the governing body of the candidate who received the raise knew about his candidacy, if he had not given them prior notice.  You will recall that my letter to the Gardner News never mentioned the names of any of the finalists.
On Aug.8, a council member revealed that they had contacted a couple of sources in another city where one of the semifinalists previously worked, and they used information from that background investigation as the basis for withdrawing their support for that candidate.
Mayor Drovetta did not seem surprised or concerned by this breach of confidentiality then, nor did he issue a press release to notify the residents of the injustice.  No surprise there; it was not his candidate who was thrown under the bus.
To date, neither the mayor nor our recruiter has supplied me with a copy of the withdrawal letter from the mayor’s ringer, although I have repeatedly requested that document.  In the mayor’s last reply, he asked me why I wanted it, and then he used the exemptions of the Kansas Open Records Act as a questionable basis for keeping it and other previously accessible documents from me.
I also learned, in speaking with the recruiter, that he had not conducted any background investigations on the three finalists.  This contradicts the information we received from our human resource manager and does not comply with the contract the mayor signed with the recruiter.
When you look at news media accounts of city administrator searches in other parts of the country, you’ll frequently see the names and biographies of the candidates.  There is no attempt to keep the public in the dark about the process or the candidates’ identities.
In many cases, there are public receptions at city hall where all residents can meet the finalists and provide input to their council members as to who they like and what concerns they might have about those they don’t.
Contrast that with our process, and you’ll see a clear effort to block that broad input.  Only the “secret six” community members hand-picked by the mayor were allowed to participate, while the other 19,000 served as spectators.
I’m not sure what the mayor hopes to gain by suspending the search until spring, but rest assured, his candidate—the one whose withdrawal letter has never been seen—will be back.