MERIDEN — A committee of elected officials and community members will soon begin the process of hiring a new city manager.
The City Council recently approved the creation of the committee, the first step in finding a permanent replacement for former manager Guy Scaife. Last month, City Council Democrats voted to fire Scaife in a controversial 8-4 party-line vote. Fire Chief Ken Morgan was appointed acting city manager.
The search committee will have nine members, including two councilors, one from the minority caucus and a Democrat. The other members will be nominated by Majority Leader David Lowell and Minority Leader Dan Brunet and approved by the City Council.
“It needs to be a cross-section of business and services in our community, people that can reflect the cultural sensitivities of our community and ... evaluate candidates,” Lowell said in a phone interview.
A similar process was used to select Scaife in 2016 after the retirement of longtime city manager Lawrence Kendzior.
“We recently went through this process… and I think the process and procedure that we used in the last search went well, so I agree it’s very similar to what we’re doing this time and hopefully we come up with some good candidates moving forward,” Brunet said at a recent council meeting.
After vetting candidates with the assistance of Morgan, Human Resources Director Marci Nogueira, Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn, City Attorney Deborah Moore, and a professional recruitment firm, the search committee will forward a non-binding list of finalists to the City Council.
The city is considering using the same firm used to hire Scaife, the Novak Consulting Group. The previous search cost the city about $20,000. The city is exploring a clause in the previous contract that may require Novak to assist for “little to no cost,” said Mayor Kevin Scarpati.
The city’s purchasing department will also solicit offers from other search consulting firms. Four other companies that could aid in the search have been identified, Morgan said.
When reached by phone last week, Brunet speculated that Meriden may be able to piggy-back on Cheshire’s process for hiring a town manager. Cheshire’s Council voted last month to appoint Sean Kimball, finance director and acting town manager in Simsbury, to replace retiring town manager Michael Milone.
“Cheshire just filled a manager position and they had a stable of some highly qualified candidates that they picked from, so I believe there’s a pool available of people in the area that are interested and working in this region,” Brunet said.
The Freedom of Information Commission ruled last year in response to a Record-Journal complaint that the city violated open meeting requirements during the previous city manager search by holding a private discussion in January that detailed the hiring process and included a list of search panel members. Six city councilors were present at the meeting, in addition to Kendzior and Scarpati.
The city argued the meeting did not violate open meeting requirements as six councilors do not constitute a quorum, and the city is appealing the FOIC’s decision. Lowell said transparency will not be an issue this time.
“I think we’ve got an open process,” Lowell said. “There are no names selected.”
According to the City Charter, Morgan can only serve as acting city manager for 90 days, meaning his term will expire mid-March. Scarpati hoped a new city manager could be hired before his term expires.
“Without a rush in process, I would hope to get it done within that three-month time frame,” Scarpati said.