When Palm Coast's City Council fired former city manager Jim Landon in 2018, the council opted to spend $28,000 to hire a search firm to help find his replacement.
"I think we have staff capable of doing the same type of search that these firms are performing, without the thumb on the scale."
— NICK KLUFAS, Palm Coast City Council member
The current City Council, during a June 8 council workshop, expressed no interest in doing so again now that the council is seeking a replacement for former city manager Matt Morton, who succeeded Landon and resigned on May 27.
Of the council members, only Councilman Nick Klufas had been on the council for the process that led to Morton's hiring. He said he didn't trust that search firms wouldn't be biased in favor of particular candidates.
"I think we have staff capable of doing the same type of search that these firms are performing, without the thumb on the scale," Klufas said.
"I totally agree," said Councilman Ed Danko.
Danko and Councilman Victor Barbosa both said the firm used before "didn't do such a good job," and Klufas said he hadn't been impressed by the initial group of resumes it had gathered before Morton's hiring.
The council's discussion at the June 8 workshop came as the city's Human Resources director, Renina Fuller, gave a presentation on the city's options for choosing a successor.
She presented four possibilities. The city could:
1) Send out a "request for solutions," or RFS, for a search firm
2) Send out a "request for proposals," or RFP, for a search firm
3) Have city staff manage the search process
4) Appoint the interim city manager — Denise Bevan, formerly Palm Coast's chief of staff over infrastructure — to the regular city manager position.
"Isn't there an Option 5: Have council members present their recommendations for a city manager?" he said.
Fuller added it to the list.
Councilman Victor Barbosa asked how much a staff-managed search would cost, and Fuller said it would likely not exceed $8,000, mostly for job ads. Using a search firm, she said, could cost $25,000 to $60,000.
Branquinho was wary of the transparency implications of considering council member recommendations, and said he believed the council should also look at other applicants.
Klufas said that if council members are going to recommend candidates, the council should develop an evaluation process and apply it to all applicants.
He said he was leaning toward search process led by city staff, and also favored allowing staff to have input on potential candidates.
"For them to be able to have more of an opinion on who they think that they can work with and for, and unify a team, is really important," Klufas said. "If you put this person through the same process — even if it's one of our own recommendations — I think that's the cleanest, most transparent way for everybody."
"I don’t ever recall in corporate America getting to pick my boss," Danko said.
"I recall many times, being a senior engineer, interviewing our engineering management team," Klufas said. "Perhaps we were in different corporate Americas."
The council will consider its options again during a future council business meeting.