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Thursday February 14, 2013

Two days after taking action at the February 4 City Council meeting to fire City Manager Sandy Miller, a special meeting was held to discuss what’s next. With legal counsel present, the Council asked Deputy City Manager Bob Rusten if he would be willing to take on the role of “temporary” interim City Manager. He agreed with the understanding that he would return to his position as Deputy after a replacement was found.

A discussion followed regarding the process of hiring an interim and permanent city manager. Typically, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns has assisted with the process of finding an interim city manager. The League is contacted, they provide a list of names to, in this case, Rusten, and the City Manager and Council can move forward from there. According to attorney Steve Stitzel, the League is made up of people who have worked with Vermont finance and laws and have in depth experience. The candidates may only be lacking in knowledge of specific projects a city has underway. When Greco inquired as to whether the interim City Manager is ever hired on a permanent basis, Stitzel said typically the interim people are not interested in staying on as permanent city managers. One reason is that if the interim individual is viewed as an incumbent, it can dissuade others from applying since they perceive the incumbent as having an advantage. As of February 11, three names, from three different agencies had been submitted for consideration for the interim city manager position.

Councilor Sandy Dooley said that the process of hiring Miller took about 2 ½ months and involved a committee made up of community members and City staff. The finalists interviewed with various department heads who each had a score sheet, then all information went to the Council for a final decision. All Councilors agreed that community feedback is very important and they will determine how and when to gather this

Although the decision regarding Miller’s termination may have seemed abrupt to some, it was anything but. The decision on his termination was made in public on February 4, although the evaluation process leading up to the decision was initiated in late July. “Nothing was done in haste” Greco said. “This is a decision we took very seriously. We consulted with legal counsel. We wanted to protect the SB taxpayers as much as possible and act in the best interest of South Burlington.”

As a result of this decision, some have begun to broach the question of transparency. Greco pointed to the fact that they are holding deliberative sessions on interim zoning in public, even though they aren’t legally required to do so.

“No one would be privy to the details of an evaluation since that’s a private matter” Greco said, “To reveal the details of a personal evaluation would not be respectable or polite. We’re constantly trying to balance citizens’ right to know with personal privacy.”   


SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent