Commission begins city manager search process (UPDATED with VIDEO)

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Two corporate headhunting firms pitched their services to the Albany City Commission at its work session on Tuesday as leaders begin the process to replace City Manager Alfred Lott.

The commission won't vote to hire a company until its business meeting.

The choice of firms is between the Mercer Group, which city officials used to hire new downtown manager Aaron Blair, and the firm of Colin Baenziger & Associates out of Wellington, Fla.

In terms of price, both firms told commissioners they could perform a nationwide search for roughly $20,000. Lott has resigned as city manager effective June 2011.

Robert Mercer said that his firm would conduct a nationwide search of professionals and cull the list based on criteria established by the commission before performing intensive background checks on the top seven to eight individuals.

From that point, the list would get narrowed down to five or six and those would then be interviewed by the commission or their designees. Mercer said his group would also perform follow-up checks to make sure that their recruit is fitting in well in the position and would offer a two-year guarantee that, for any reason including death, the recruit leaves the post, the firm will do a new search for a replacement for only the cost of expenses.

Mercer's fee, $14,000 plus up to $6,000 in expenses, was reduced, he said, from the typical $16,000 fee and up to $8,000 in expenses because he was familiar with the commission and the city through the work hiring Blair.

Baenziger's presentation essentially mirrored Mercer's with a few key differences.

In terms of fees, Baenziger said that his are capped at $20,000, including expenses. The city, however, would have to foot the bill for bringing any final candidates to Albany.

Baenziger also vowed to perform rigorous background checks for both criminal and civil action, which would include extensive reference checks to include interviews with previous employers, including elected officials and reporters from the candidates' previous towns.

Baenziger also said he recommends having a meet-and-greet social event with the candidates, commissioners and the community before final determinations are made.

Lastly, Baenziger said that should a candidate hired by the city be fired or quit within the first year, he would perform another search process free of charge. If that were to happen in the second year of the candidate's employment with the city, he would do a subsequent search billing only for the expenses.

In an attempt to head-off the criticism that usually accompanies the board's decision to hire an outside consultant to recruit candidates, both Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard and Mayor Willie Adams attempted to justify the expense.

"I just wanted to say for the record that a consultant can perform this search better than we could," Hubbard said.

For Adams, it was a question of quality.

"They have the connections and resources to do a nationwide search to help us find the best candidate," Adams said. "This is an important position and we need to have the best person possible."