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Lott says in-house search not practical

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- City Manager Alfred Lott says that he will use a consultant to help find the city's next downtown manager before using city resources to cull down the list and perform background checks.

In August, Lott and the City Commission discussed searching for a replacement for former Downtown Manager Don Buie, who had recently been fired and was under investigation by the GBI.

At issue was Lott's use of Slavin Management, a corporate headhunting firm, who presented Buie as a candidate but failed to discover he had a previous federal bank fraud conviction.

After discussing the issue at both a work session and its August business meeting, the commission voted 4-3 to give Lott the go ahead to recruit a downtown manager "when practicable" without using an outside consultant.

According to the official minutes, the motion offered by Commissioner Tommie Postell to "authorize the city manager to recruit for the position of Downtown Manager when practicable without using outside consultants," was passed 4-3, with Commissioners Morris Gurr and Roger Marietta joining Mayor Willie Adams in voting no.

Lott says that conducting a search in-house for a position with such a specific skill set simply isn't practical.

"Right now, given all of the issues associated with the former downtown manager we are a difficult sell," Lott said. "So if I'm responsible for who comes in, and I believe that's true, the practical thing to do is to use a recruiter to sell Albany to the top candidates and get the best person possible."

Lott told commissioners during their retreat Monday that his plan is to use the Mercer Group to get a candidate pool before using city resources to whittle the list down and perform rigorous background checks.

Mercer is in the process of developing a contract with the city to perform the search. A request for proposal on file with the city shows that Mercer quoted the city a rate of $14,000 for its recruitment package, plus out-of-pocket expenses not to exceed $9,500.

Commissioner Bob Langstaff said he remembers the discussion and believes that the key issue was just moving past Slavin.

"I would have to echo Al's comments on the matter. I just don't think you can find someone with the experience that we need without getting help," Langstaff said.

According to Mercer's Web site, it is an independent management consulting firm that provides services to federal, state and local governments and private-sector clients.

Mercer currently has 22 active searches listed on its Web site ranging from city managers and administrators to police chiefs and planning and community development directors.

Mercer has filled positions across the country including the chief executive officer position for Macon, a utilities director for Valdosta and the city manager for Tifton.

The City of Albany's downtown manager position is listed as "coming soon."

There is some confusion among board members who feel as though their direction was to keep the search in-house.

Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard, who asked Lott about the matter at the retreat, said that she would have to take a look at the minutes before commenting on the matter.

Even if using a headhunter conflicted with the wishes of the board, the city's charter gives the city manager complete authority over who is hired or fired, rendering it moot unless commissioners choose to amend the charter. The charter also allows Lott to spend up to $40,000 without direct approval of the city commission.

The check on that authority, of course, is that the board hires and fires the city manager.

Albany Mayor Willie Adams said that he was content with Lott's actions in moving the process forward and believes that now is the time to put someone in place.

"I'm pleased with what he (Lott) says he's planning to do," Adams said. "We never intended for Col. (Jim) Taylor to be in that position forever. We put him there to clean up the situation and, now that they're doing pretty good, we need him back doing his full-time job and for someone else to take over."