LATHROP – It’ll be up to a two-councilmember subcommittee to select the executive search firm to help find Lathrop’s next city manager.
With Cary Keaten’s imminent departure looming – his last day after a decade-long stint with the city is April 24 – the council decided Monday night to task Vice Mayor Christopher Mateo and Councilman Omar Ornelas with wading through a list of consultants and bringing their recommendation back to the council for final approval.
The cost of the service won’t be known until the individual proposals are submitted by the firms themselves, but could easily stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars. The firm hired will be used to find suitable candidates for both a city manager and a finance director after Terri Vigna retired more than two months ago.
Because the council ultimately makes the hiring decision for the city manager, the process will be different for the two positions. Once the city manager is in place, he or she will take an active role in the recruitment and decision in who will oversee the city’s finances moving forward.
Cari James has been serving as the acting finance director since Vigna retired and Steve Salvatore will take the reins of the city once Keaten leaves. Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal says he has the utmost faith in those stepping in during the transitional period.
“We have a very good staff at our finance department, and while we’re definitely going to miss Terri (Vigna) the staff that we have in place is more than capable of handling any task that comes up,” Dhaliwal said. “And Steve (Salvatore) knows the city. We’re in good hands.”
Not everyone on the council, however, is thrilled at the idea of shelling out money for a search firm.
Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos – who missed Monday’s council meeting for personal reasons – said he doesn’t understand why the city doesn’t just promote an able in-house candidate and save the money that will end up coming from the city’s general fund reserves.
Freely tapping into that to pay for services, he said, is a slippery slope.
“We can’t just go to that account any time something comes up that seems nice that we can’t afford – we’re broke,” Santos said. “There were two people who got up there and talked about how there are people that work the city today that are capable of filling that position.
“How much could this end up costing us? Fifty thousand dollars? It’s too much and we don’t have it right now.”
Requests for proposals have been sent out to five established executive search firms – Ralph Anderson and Associates; Peckham and McKenney; Avery and Associates; Teri Black and Co. LLC; Bob Murray and Associates – and a budget amendment would need to be approved by the council for payment prior to any official contract being signed.
Dhaliwal estimates that the entire process could take up to three months to complete.