Dear City Council: About Your Request for Input Regarding Our Next City Manager
By Lewis F. McLain, Jr
Community survey for City Manager search
Mayor Brian Loughmiller and City Council invite citizens to provide input on the search criteria for the City Manager position via an online survey. Earlier this month, the city held a public input meeting aimed at giving city leaders insight into what residents hope to find in a permanent City Manager. The survey is an additional opportunity to provide feedback, and will remain open until March 28.
Dear City Council:
This may be coming as bad news for you, but the best City Manager Candidates are going to be interviewing YOU. Not the other way around. A magazine that hardly knows anything about McKinney may say we are Number One, but that’s not the way the city management profession may see the City Council. You haven’t done very well for about two decades, although your current Interim City Manager is a model. However, he doesn’t count. You needed him more than he needed you, and everybody has known that he could check out whenever he wanted to since he was already retired when he came in to save your butts.
I think you need to be asking for public input on how the council is going to persuade the best candidates to apply. Oh, you will get plenty of candidates who would take the job even if you promised them every day was going to be a living hell. The compensation is good, and the ability to relocate to the DFW area is a magnet. Plus they may be wanting to get out of their own Dodge City for a variety of reasons. Getting people to apply is not the issue. Getting them on board is not the issue. Keeping them long enough for their efforts to come to fruition and to be successful in every way is THE ISSUE.
Potential Interview Questions for the Council to Answer
If I were a candidate, here are my interview questions for you.
• Is McKinney a Council-Manager form of government?
• Do you know what that means?
• Are you going to allow the City Manager to operate as our City Charter outlines?
• Do you have an Underground Government here in McKinney? By that I mean several things.
o Does the staff leak information to select council members, developers or community leaders?
o Does the council allow vendors, developers and community leaders to have private meetings with council members with the intention of being persuaded of positions that will result in favorable council decisions without public discussion or knowledge that the Council has been lobbied?
o Is the answer a quick Yes followed by “I do it for the education benefit and to be prepared for meetings?”
o And, if so, do you allow the proponent to tell you in those private meetings which other council members they may have talked to and whether they are in favor of the proposition or not?
o Have developers, realtors and builders outside McKinney found it difficult to get projects approved here in McKinney compared to Insiders?
o Have any of these Insiders ever tried to hi-jack a project that was in process by an Outsider?
o Do City Manager, Staff and Board/Commission recommendations consistently get overruled by the Council even when trying to follow Council policy?
o Does the City Council influence the Money Boards (MEDC/MCDC) to play favorites and direct money to pet projects or things the Council itself would be challenged on if spent out of the General Fund and competed with other needs in the City’s budget process?
o Do the Money Board recipients tend to become campaign contributors for Council Members or Candidates?
o Have your Money Boards ever been heavily weighted by board members employed by or closely associated with large amounts of funds given to any company?
o Are there any Council Members, Money Board Members or Staff Members that have been employed by firms (before, during or after) working for the City or that were beneficiaries of Money Board funds?
o Is there a Good Ole Boy Network that is slanted toward longtime friends that are constantly rotated around various boards and commissions?
o Are things that should be known publicly deliberated routed through the City Attorney in order to claim attorney-client privilege and keep out of the public’s view?
o Is there evidence of Walking Quorums, in all the many forms we all know can exist?
o Is there evidence of Jump-In-Front real estate deals where knowledge of City plans leak from Money Boards, Council or the P&Z Commission such that real estate professionals and developers quickly acquire the property in order to make a profit by selling property to the City at higher prices?
o Are discussions in Executive Sessions (whether Council or the Money Boards) ever leaked to persons who should not be privy to those discussions?
o Has the council or any member every gotten involved in a staff issue that resulted in an FBI inquiry?
• Is there anybody on the City staff who cannot be terminated by the new City Manager if he or she concludes that person does not fit within the organization the City Manager wants to build?
• Is there enough transparency and honesty among the Council Members to answer these questions among yourselves as well as to the public?
I have about a dozen more questions and a few hypothetical case studies I may be sending you, all of which may be topics of my future blogs. However, I will wait to see if any of you will provide my blog readers an honest response to these questions. There is a good chance I may have a City Manager Candidate reading this blog and anxious to know whether or not to apply. In fact, many of these questions came indirectly from City Managers in discussions I’ve had with them over the years.