DOVER — Following what Councilman Matthew Lindell called a “quick motion” in a prior city council meeting, the Dover City Council approved Monday adding two residents to its committee tasked with deciding how to go about finding a new city manager and city clerk.
This comes after President Roy Sudler nominated four council members, Mayor Robin Christiansen and Human Resources Director Kim Hawkins to serve on a committee for the search during a June 29 city council meeting.
In prior searches, the council president has selected council members to sit on the committee. During the Monday meeting, Councilman Matthew Lindell said he was “under the impression” there would be more discussion before Councilman Sudler named his nominations to the search committee.
“I was a bit surprised when we made a quick motion and such,” Councilman Lindell said. “That discussion didn’t really take place at all.”
Councilman Sudler’s nominations were approved June 29 with eight in favor and Councilman Lindell opposed. Councilpersons serving on the committee are Tricia Arndt, Andre Boggerty, William Hare and Gerald Rocha.
During the Monday meeting, Councilman Lindell suggested the council add Dana Shelton and Johnathan Contant to the search committee.
Mr. Shelton serves on the city’s Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee and Mr. Contant serves on the Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee. He also serves on the Public Advisory Committee of Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Both will likely not have a vote and would have to sign nondisclosure agreements. The two were discussed but not decided during the Monday meeting.
“They both have a lot of knowledge as well and they both bring an outside perspective to things,” Councilman Lindell said. “They both have the benefit of not necessarily having the political piece as well.”
Councilman Lindell also suggested the committee conduct the searches themselves, but retain the services of The Mercer Group, which the city used to find former city manager Randy Robertson. Mr. Robertson resigned May 26 after a little more than five months on the job.
The council approved adding two civilians as committee members with councilpersons David Anderson, Fred Neil, Arndt, Rocha, Randy Taylor, Lindell for the motion. Councilmen Boggerty, Hare and Sudler voted against the motion.
The motion to retain The Mercer Group as an advisory group, if the committee determines it is needed, was approved with councilpersons Anderson, Neil, Hare, Arndt, Rocha, Taylor and Lindell voting in favor. Councilmen Boggerty and Sudler voted against.
While Councilman Taylor was supportive of adding citizens to the search committee, calling it a “brilliant” suggestion, he did not initially support using a consulting firm again.
“I don’t think we need to invest taxpayer dollars into (the search),” he said. “We walked down this path before. I just think we would be better served to allow the search committee to decide.”
Councilman David Anderson said some people have “misunderstood” the role of the consulting firm, noting it was not to choose the new city manager, but rather a tool to help the city get a larger pool from which to choose.
“Their role was just to get us more quality résumés , which quite frankly they did,” he said. “We received close to two dozen quality résumés where (in prior city manager searches), we received only a handful at different times.”
Councilman Hare spoke against both using The Mercer Group and having citizens on the search committee. The latter, he said, could cause problems such as how to determine which residents get to participate in committees.
In response to Councilman Hare’s comments, Councilman Lindell said he suggested Mr. Shelton and Mr. Contant because they already serve on committees within the Dover government.
“We’re not just pulling my next door neighbor and saying, ‘Hey, you want to come to an interview?” he said. “I think it adds value to what we’re trying to do.”
Councilman Sudler questioned both residents’ qualifications for assisting with the search. Councilman Anderson noted Mr. Contant has a master’s degree in public administration from the University Delaware.
“Both are great individuals, but outside of being great individuals and great contributors as committee members, what is their skill set?” Councilman Sudler asked. “Do they have (human resource) expertise or even public administrator expertise?”
Councilman Sudler said he chose the members of the committee specifically because of their experience in hiring.
Councilman Lindell said the council should vote for or against having residents serve on the committee because it’s a good idea or not — not because he was the one who suggested it.
In response, Councilman Sudler said he does not have “an issue” with Councilman Lindell “other than the lack of professionalism that you have demonstrated and shown me.”
“That’s the issue I have with you,” Councilman Sudler said.
Councilman Sudler also questioned why Councilman Lindell chose Mr. Contant and Mr. Shelton specifically.
“How did you come up with those individuals outside of the rest of great committee members that may be even more qualified,” Councilman Sudler said. “What was your pool? What was your process?”
Councilman Lindell said Mr. Contant asks “highly intelligent” questions and has an open mind. He added Mr. Shelton has a “strong mind” as well.
Noting he will likely not seek reelection when his term ends in May 2023, Councilman Lindell said his interests in his time left on the council is to do “the best I can with what I’ve got where I am.”