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Bethel City Council Rejects Finalist For City Attorney After Rejecting Finalists For City Manager

Oct 24, 2019

Bethel City Council decided to re-open the applications periods for the city attorney and city manager positions after rejecting the finalists recruited and selected by GovHR, the city's executive search firm.
Credit City of Bethel

On Wednesday, the Bethel City Council interviewed a candidate for city attorney, and chose to re-open the application period. This came a day after council also rejected both finalists for the Bethel City Manager position. 

Mark Springer explained the decision to pass on the candidate for city attorney. 

“She said ‘I don’t have labor negotiation experience, I don’t have debt collection experience,’” said Springer. “I’m sure she’s a perfectly competent attorney, but she doesn’t have the skill set that, at least, I was looking for.” 

Council had narrowed the city attorney candidates to two finalists before Wednesday’s interviews. One of the finalists withdrew her application hours before the interview. City Clerk Lori Strickler said that she was not told why.

On Tuesday, the city council also rejected both finalists for the Bethel City Manager position. That was because one candidate had a sexual assault accusation in his background, and the other had been charged with domestic violence. Senior Vice President Sarah McKee of GovHR, the city’s executive search firm, explained why they were the finalists.

“Well they were the most qualified,” McKee said. “They had experience managing municipalities of similar size to Bethel. They both had city manager experience.” 

McKee said that she knew of the candidates’ backgrounds early on in the process.

“We see that from the very beginning. We Google ‘em just like everybody else does,” McKee said.

She had also recommended candidates with less municipal experience, but with cleaner backgrounds.

“Those were included in the candidate folder that we sent to the city. They chose not to interview them,” McKee said. “Also, keep in mind that this council is not the same as the council that chose these two candidates.” 

Former council member Leif Albertson explained that GovHR recommended three final candidates. One was a former city employee who left on bad terms, so he was out, said Albertson. He said that the council was aware of one finalist’s sexual assault allegation, but because there were no charges, they moved forward. He said that he had not heard about the other finalist’s domestic violence charge, and he said that the rest of the candidates were just not qualified. 

So far, the city has paid GovHR $28,000 to recruit candidates for city manager and city attorney. The city council rejected each candidate, and plans to direct GovHR to re-open the application periods for both positions. City Clerk Lori Strickler said this will require more money. She also said that it often takes time to fill these city positions.

“Fortunately, in our position right now, we’ve got Bill Howell as acting city manager. He’s doing a great job. We’ve got a contract attorney who’s very familiar with the organization,” Strickler said. “So we’re in a really good position to make sure we’re taking our time, so we don’t feel like we have to rush in.” 

The city is also still reviewing candidates for police chief.