City, ADICA talk to headhunter

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- As their former director sat incarcerated at the Dougherty County Jail Monday, the board of trustees of the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority met with a consultant hired to find his replacement and -- needless to say -- integrity, honesty and experience were tops on their list of desired credentials.

Former ADICA Executive Director and Downtown Manager Don Buie remains jailed after pleading guilty in December to theft charges stemming from what City Manager Alfred Lott said was gross mismanagement of the authority's finances. He is slated for release June 24.

Meanwhile, the city has undertaken the chore of finding Buie's replacement and hired the Mercer Group -- a national corporate and government recruiting agency -- to provide a field of competent, qualified candidates from which city leaders and ADICA board members will select.

Mercer Group founder and CEO James Mercer held a series of meetings Monday with city staff, ADICA board members and individual Albany City Commissioners to discuss what qualities they seek in a candidate for the position.

Nearly every ADICA board member told Mercer they wanted an emphasis on integrity and honesty with experience in either property management or construction or both.

Chairman Andrew Reid told Mercer that the ability to communicate well with others was vital to both getting the board's message out to developers and property owners, but also to getting their concerns back to the board.

Thelma Johnson told Mercer it was important that the downtown manager be a visionary when it comes to ideas for downtown projects, but that he or she should also be a team builder to rally the community behind a project as well.

Robert Kraselsky said the downtown manager should have a proven development record and have some familiarity with various government funding options, including low-interest loans, grant funding, revolving loans, etc.

"I want someone who, when it comes to developing our downtown, it isn't their first rodeo," Kraselsky said. "Their credentials must be impeccable, and their background must be free of surprises. ... I don't care if you have to go back to when they were born."

Those "surprises" of which Kraselsky speaks reference a previous guilty plea in federal court to bank fraud charges that was never discovered on Buie's record until uncovered by The Herald following Buie's termination by Lott, despite the fact that the previous corporate headhunter had done a criminal background check.

Mercer said he had already been made aware of the city's distaste for "surprises" and that it would be a priority for his agency during the search process to thoroughly vet each of the candidates before making a recommendation to the city or the board.

"Surprises are not good for you, and they certainly aren't good for us. It reflects negatively on our company," Mercer said. "We back our work up with a guarantee so that in the rare event that any did arise, you are covered."

Elvis Muldrow said the board needed a leader who was aggressive and who had the experience to pull off redevelopment efforts. "Ability to work well with others" was another trait high on his list.

Phil Cannon said experience in property management and construction would be very important but that a strong knowledge and understanding of fiscal responsibility and accountability would be essential.

"You need to know that we have a major issue with this position," Cannon said. "The last guy that did this is sitting in the Dougherty County Jail after pleading guilty to theft ... so whomever comes in has to have strong integrity and credibility and can rebuild the perception of the position."

Mercer spent all of Monday meeting with ADICA and city officials, seldom leaving Taylor's side. His day started early Monday at a breakfast with Lott, followed by a tour of the downtown area with Assistant City Manager Wes Smith. That was followed by lunch with the ADICA board and a meeting with city commissioners.

The downtown manager is a city employee who answers directly to the city manager, like the city's other department heads.

In addition to duties as downtown manager, ADICA can choose to hire the downtown manager as its executive director, although the board has the right and authority to hire anyone it deems fit for the job. In recent years, the ADICA executive director has been under the employ of alternate entities like the city of Albany or Albany Tomorrow Inc.