Op-Ed: Our TB has a duty to conduct an open search to fill the Town Administrator position

Saturday, May 24, 2014
by Christine Yeres

The January appointment of Jill Shapiro to the position of Town Administrator for a term of six months was perhaps understandable in terms of smoothing the transition for a Town Board with three new members, but it should have been accompanied by an open search to fill the position longer-term, along with an invitation for Ms. Shapiro to reapply for the job herself.  There’s still time to do this.

When the three new Board members appointed her, Supervisor Rob Greenstein led the public to believe that Ms. Shapiro’s appointment was the convenient, practical thing to do; that it was for six months’ duration; and that it would be examined more closely subsequently.  As NCNOW learned last week, the “six month contract” turned out actually to be a two-year contract with a six-month trial period as Administrator.  And although Ms. Shapiro can terminated “with or without cause” during the six months, the contract seems to indicate that the criteria by which she will be evaluated during that period will have been “developed by Shapiro and the Town,” and that a summary of her review and evaluation will be provided to her by the Supervisor “and/or” the Board.  Here’s the wording:

“This review and evaluation shall be in accordance with specific criteria developed by the Town and Shapiro, and the Supervisor shall provide Shapiro with a summary of such review and evaluation with him and/or the Board.”

The Supervisor says that he means to keep Ms. Shapiro in the position, presumably for another year and a half, although he has also stated that it will be the full Board’s decision. If Supervisor Greenstein or any other Board members have decided they would like to retain Ms. Shapiro, let them show the public the means by which they have measured her performance.

It might seem to Board members more trouble to conduct a job search than to not conduct one.  But when you see the seriousness with which other towns are treating their opportunities to fill administrator posts and realize how similar our problems are to theirs in terms of economic and demographic change, local controversies and constrained budgets, you will wonder how we can be satisfied that our former Town Clerk and Receiver of Taxes is the best Town Administrator we can find for New Castle.

The good news is that advertising the job is easy, not nearly so complicated as putting out an “request for proposals.”  Mt. Kisco’s Village Administrator, Jim Palmer, was just hired by Bronxville to be its new administrator.  Thirty-six candidates applied for the position (Bronxville chose to advertise nationally).  Now that Palmer is taking the Bronxville position, Mt. Kisco is advertising for an administrator, too.  So are Ardsley and Tuckahoe.

The job notices are brief and straightforward.  Here, for example, Mt. Kisco’s is looking to fill Jim Palmer’s position:

Village/Town of Mount Kisco - Village Manager

The Village/Town of Mount Kisco, Westchester County, New York is seeking an executive to serve as Village Manager. The Village/Town of Mount Kisco is a diverse and well established community with a healthy commercial tax base. Mount Kisco is a full service community with a staff striving to provide excellence in all areas of public service, including parks and recreation, library, public works, public safety, planning and zoning and a parking authority. Interested candidates should visit our web site at www. mountkisco.org.

Prefer Masters Degree in Public Administration with 7 – 10 years progressively responsible municipal management experience. Requires strong management and communications skills, in addition to budget, finance, human resources, planning, interpersonal and consensus building skills.

The ideal candidate should possess the ability to manage a full-time staff of approximately 100, in addition to consultants. Expertise in labor negotiations, knowledge of municipal law and information technology rounds out the ideal candidate.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply by June 2, 2014. Resumes and cover letters accepted electronically. To apply by e-mail send a cover letter and resume to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

~ from New York State City/County Management Association

Ms. Shapiro’s trial period ends June 30, 2014.  That’s plenty of time in which to put the job out there and begin interviewing.  Bronxville used a consultant—Don Marra, a former mayor of Dobbs Ferry and former administrator for Irvington—to help with its search.  The town also made him acting interim supervisor during the search; he’ll leave when Palmer arrives at the end of June.  Palmer’s salary will be $170,000, according to a report in The Eastchester Review.  Shapiro’s is currently $135,000.

While it might be possible to tell whether Ms. Shapiro is performing badly at the job (and I’m pretty sure she’s not), it is impossible to gauge whether she is filling it well, very well, or superbly.  None of us knows—not NCNOW, not Robin Murphy (whose letter last week caused a stir), not Town Board members.  There is only one way to know whether Ms. Shapiro is the best candidate for the job: by seeing what other candidates there are and what qualifications and experience they offer.  Our Town Board has a duty to find out.
_____________________

Related:  Was Jill Shapiro appointed town administrator for six months or for two years? NCNOW.org, 519/14

Letter to the Editor: Transparency?  The town administrator’s contract was supposed to be for six months, by Robin Murphy, NCNOW.org, 5/19/14

 


Comments(46):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

The search for a candidate may also be an opportunity to consult someone (as Bronxville consulted Don Marra), and to have him or her take a look at how our Town Hall operates and tell us where there’s room for improvement.

By Christine Yeres on 05/24/2014 at 8:28 am

Where is the promised transparency? Where is the required procedure and protocol?

Committees have been hand picked. The train station lease ” awarded”  to a vendor without proper procedure and without ample time for all interested parties to submit applications. Secret negotiations continue with developers. A new law firm has replaced our long standing legal counsel and it turns out the new lawyers are friends of the new supervisor and no process was followed to ensure our town is best served.

Now a town Adminstrator has been annointed with no proper vetting and no public announcement inviting qualified candidates to apply for the job. Ms Shapiro may in fact be highly qualified but we can’t know that until we see who else is interested. The town board works for the residents. They were voted in by the residents. They are paid by the residents. The Town Administrator is paid by the residents.

The residents best interests are not served when this town board ignores rules, regulations, procedures and protocols intended to serve the tax payer.
Three new board members( including the supervisor) had no prior town government experience. They themselves were not qualified and now it’s amateur hour. Why haven’t the 2 sitting experienced town board members asserted themselves to stop this inappropriate and unethical behavior?  If they are not part of the solution then they too must be part of the problem.

By Resident on 05/24/2014 at 8:35 am

Stop it already.  Really, give it a rest. Your personal animosity is making reading this blog downright difficult.  Someone told me this site was going to shut down.  That was supposed to happen right after the election.  Is that the 2016 presidential one?  See ya.  I will look back at the end of the summer and see if this site is getting more news worthy or is still just the editor and her minions chasing ghosts.

By Tired of it on 05/24/2014 at 9:52 am

It’s no secret - appointments are about more than qualifications.

Look at the old board and the planning board seat and the new board with the Prosecutor position - politics plays a larger role than qualifications.

By Chris Roberta on 05/24/2014 at 10:20 am

I say thank god for this publication.  It is the only way that we residents have a way to know and understand what is going on in this town.
 
Good job, Editor. What you write makes great sense.

By Very grateful resident on 05/24/2014 at 10:23 am

Yes, Christine, that is a fantastic idea. We need a consultant to review all of our departments and policies and processes within the departments. Just NOT Mr. Faiella.

By Brilliant!!! on 05/24/2014 at 10:50 am

Editor- keep up the great work! Democracy and free speech is about keeping elected officials accountable. Without you and NCN many of us would never know what is going on behind closed doors. Even though much is divulged at public board meetings most residents are not attending and they are not watching the broadcasts. NewCasleNow and your efforts keep us informed. Many thanks !!!!!!!

By Resident taxpayer on 05/24/2014 at 11:14 am

We need you madamme Editor. If everyone recalls that during his election campaign and at candidates night mr Greenstein promised (among other things- hah) that he would hire a “communications director” to be tasked with keeping the community current and up to date on town matters. He and Team New Castle often chided the previous town board for not being open and transparent.
The reason he and Katz seem to embrace Facebook is because most critics remain silent on FB because they fear retribution and bullying. We have all seen, heard and read their aggressive and inappropriate behavior and I for one would never challenge them publicly and post my name as FB requires.
New CastleNow is the only widely read publication that we can comment on without consequences. Christine - thank you. Keep them in line. Call them on their broken promises. Point out that they are failing in their fiduciary responsibility to serve residents and follow established regulations and procedures of government.

By Rayj on 05/24/2014 at 12:00 pm

Chris Roberta, you said: 

“It’s no secret - appointments are about more than qualifications.

Look at the old board and the planning board seat and the new board with the Prosecutor position - politics plays a larger role than qualifications.”

Tell us, are you okay with that?

By To Chris Roberta on 05/24/2014 at 12:57 pm

OK, Ms. Yeres, there’s your answer—Greenstein has saved the town $35,000 by sticking with Ms. Shapiro. Is that such a bad thing?

By $$$$ on 05/24/2014 at 3:02 pm

To Chris Roberta- so you approve and accept that appointments are political and qualifications and procedure do not matter? I am reminded of senator and Pres candidate Obama who promised an end to politics as usual and “hope and change”. Of course he has delivered the same old politics of lobbyists, partisan politics, special interest groups, and cronyism. Just as Greenstein and Team New Castle ran on transparency and the end of the status quo. Of course we now have worse. 
So Chris Roberta you simply accept and surrender to the notion that appointments are about politics and less about qualifications? I certainly hope most people do not share your view because otherwise , once in office, politicians will forever break promises and not serve the people- only themselves. That sums up politics in Wash DC and New Castle.

By Not my idea of transparency and good governement. on 05/24/2014 at 3:38 pm

To $$$$$- and one mistake, one omission, or one bad decision by an unqualified town administrator will certainly cost the tax payer a lot more than $35,000. A job search must take place. Qualified Candidates must be interviewed and the best person should be hired. If that person should be Ms Shapiro that would be great.
This is just one of many reminders as to how valuable Penny was. She would have been an outstanding Supervisor and would have been able to hire , mentor, train, and guide her successor - Ms Shapiro or another. She might have even stayed on as Town Administrator after losing the election had Team Castle treated her with respect and decency. Instead the were rude , disrespectful and alienated Penny.

By It's not just about$$$$ on 05/24/2014 at 4:40 pm

Town government is in dire need of a new look by fresh eyes. This is long overdue and the town has suffered for it. Especially now that we’re not rolling in dough, it’s more important to know how things are being run and whether we can run them better. This opening up the job to outside applicants (and J. Shapiro too) sounds reasonable and smart.

By Very good idea on 05/24/2014 at 6:11 pm

There were no savings hiring Ms. Shapiro.  FOIL the Town on raises that were given different than was in the budget.  Start with the Comptroller.  Town hall employees are very unhappy with additional raises that were given to some and not others.  So unfair.

By Saving money-not on 05/24/2014 at 6:13 pm

No, I don’t approve. Surrender nothing.
A bunch of anonymous comments aren’t gonna change a thing - come down to a board meeting and tell them to their face and then maybe we stand a chance. 

By Chris Roberta on 05/24/2014 at 7:19 pm

Chris Roberta, Do you actually think that anyone in their right mind would show up to a Town Board meeting?  It’s too bad.  No one wants to be subjected to this Board, i.e. Team New Castle and its attorneys.  This administration is such an utter disappointment.

By let's see if the TB is listening on 05/24/2014 at 9:54 pm

Lets see…,
  I show up to board meetings. Christine is at them all. Betty stood tall and Dr. Greene is not afraid. 

If you really want to change the status quo - show up and let them know.  Otherwise throw in the towel and just keep talking about it…anonymously.

By Chris Roberta on 05/24/2014 at 11:10 pm

Dear Editor- is there a law or regulation that requires the Town Board to conduct a job search and advertise the job? I know in other matters such as construction they are required to post the job and evaluate competing bids. It seems to me if a vacancy exists for an important high paying job the town board has an obligation (perhaps required by law) to advertise the job, evaluate and interview candidates, and hire the most experienced and qualified candidate.

By Resident on 05/25/2014 at 6:39 am

News Flash:  Election over.  Greenstein and Team New Castles wins! 

Let them govern.  Is this a 6 month or 2 year deal? Semantics.  If there is an out in 6 months, it is a 6 month deal.  Interview a lot of candidates for TA? There is a 6 month interview being concluded now.  Shapiro is doing a fine job.  Not keep her on because she might make a mistake in the future? Come on sheeple.  We all make mistakes.  Shapiro did a terrific job through the winter season.  Greenstein and the board wants her for the length of Greenie’s term?  Seems reasonable to me.  We can vote him out then if we don’t like him.  Every decision he or the town board makes is not a public referendum.  The TB is the one making these decisions even if it is a 3-2 vote. 

Move on folks/editor.  Find something to really complain about.

By Reality check. on 05/25/2014 at 10:21 am

Jill Shapiro was our town clerk. If she can do the work of the administrator, then she is doing it based on her experience as a town clerk, which means she could have done the work of administrator from the position of a town clerk. It would have been wiser to leave the administrator job empty/open, let her keep things running (as she is) from her clerk position, and ask both outsiders and her to apply for the administrator job. The town is in crisis. We need someone stellar.

By Advertise the job on 05/25/2014 at 12:02 pm

Everyone is doing everyone else’s job at town hall right now, while everyone “learns on the job.”

Why is that good enough? Open the process, get applicants and then decide whether we want to keep Shapiro or get a new administrator. Slipping a twn clerk up into the administrator (without seeing what the market is) spot is not doing the right thing for residents.

By learning on the job on 05/25/2014 at 12:06 pm

If Jill Shapiro had integrity she would be the first to call for an open search.  Greenstein has shown that he has no integrity and is a hypocrite.  Where are Jason, Elise, and Lisa’s voices on this?  Remember, Lisa you ran on honesty and transparency?  I hope that Adam understands the importance of this matter.

By another resident sorry for his vote on 05/25/2014 at 2:17 pm

The Supervisor after the election but before he was sworn in signed Shapiro up for his Team along with the Comptroller.  We all saw the three of them meeting in Town Hall.  We just thought it was in bad taste.  Now we know what was going on and have to live with it.  Check out the big raise the Comptroller got. Why did he get a big raise? His duties didn’t change. Meanwhile the rest got minimal raises.  The morale in Town Hall is terrible.  No one can talk to the Supervisor because who wants to get into trouble and he is busy praising Jill. Why would he listen.  It was never like this.  Bad choice for the employees.  Does the Town Board care?

By in cohoots on 05/25/2014 at 5:54 pm

To “in cohoots”

I can think of a chain of reasons to raise the comptroller salary:

- because he has to do the money/budget part of the administrator’s job

- because Jill Shapiro isnt a budget person herself and

- because Jill has to still do the clerk part of Mary Deems new job

- and they justify this too by saying “Hmm. We save money with this patch job because we get to pay Jill (whose salary was also raised) less than we paid Penny.

It’s a mess. It’s a crazy patch job. Residents deserve a proper set of administrators in town hall, not just someone who’s sworn allegiance to King Greenstein.

By Follow the money on 05/25/2014 at 7:19 pm

There is a lot of bluster here on this message board, but not one, NOT ONE person has cited or can cite one thing that Shapiro has done wrong.  Get over yourselves.  Put your crying towel away and enjoy the nice summer memorial day.  Thank a veteran.

By mother, daughter, friend, neighbor. on 05/26/2014 at 9:35 am

To mother,daughter,friend,neighbor- nobody has said Shapiro has done anything wrong. Greenstein and the Town Board have been cited for not following standard operating procedure and protocol as far as filling jobs and committees. When an important job opening comes available or an important contract / project is up for grabs, elected officials have a responsibility to make sure these things are filled by best people available. Whether it be a train station lease, the hiring of town attorneys, the hiring of a town administrator, or the awarding of a construction/ engineering/ contract, the town board is supposed to advertise the opportunity and allow all qualified professionals to compete. When the CCSD school board was looking for a new superintendent they interviewed many candidates. Ultimately they chose an ” in-house” candidate but the district was properly served.

This Team New Castle promised transparency and the end of the status quo. They reneged on the train station lease and gave other vendors only 1 week to apply, they filled committee seats with hand picked members, chose our new attorney based on friendship, and stated that Ms Shapiro was given a 6 month trial when in fact she was given a 2 year contract without interviewing anybody else.

Perhaps you should stop defending this deplorable behavior and you should get over your unwavering loyalty to Team New Castle. They have broken every campaign promise they made.

By Resident on 05/26/2014 at 10:26 am

@ mother, daughter, friend, neighbor,

Lots of obfuscation and deflection in your post.  What do you have against good and best government practices ?  Shapiro can apply for the position honestly.  This appointment was a back room deal.  Another back room deal.  Is that what you support for this community, more back room deals ?

And what does it have to do with the holiday ?

By enough with the Rob spin on 05/26/2014 at 11:41 am

To mother/daughter/etc:

This town has serious problems. What Rob Greenstein, Adam Brodsky and Lisa Katz did was the equivalent of “social promotion” - they passed Jill up to the next grade without regard for her skills or the requirements of the job. That was only OK if it was temporary. The fact that as far as RG is concerned it is about to become permanent is not OK at all.

By Social Promotion is what they did on 05/26/2014 at 12:21 pm

“reality check”, you write:

“Shapiro is doing a fine job.  Not keep her on because she might make a mistake in the future?”

What are you talking about?!?!?! The reason people are objecting to this appointment has nothing to do with a “mistake in the future”. She may make no overt mistake ever (and now you can be sure that if she does we’ll never hear about it from RG, AB or LK). “No mistake” is not the same as “doing a good job”.

Making no mistake (whether past present or future) is no measure - and it’s not good enough.

By A reality check back at you on 05/26/2014 at 12:28 pm

Bronxville is smaller than we are, is closer to the City and has more side streets than we do (actually, EVERY town, it seems, has more side streets than we do) - and it’s a gem. Think about this - would Jill Shapiro ever have applied for the admin job in Bronxville - or in Mt. K, ‘cause that’s empty now according to above article - and been considered qualified? Why should we make do with an existing employee for the comfort and convenience of green town board members? And I’m remembering too (thanks to an above comment) that this appointment was made by the three new board members ALONE.

By Does anyone know Bronxville?? on 05/26/2014 at 12:42 pm

Town prosecutor to town clerk?  Yes.  Town clerk to town administrator? Only maybe.  I agree - run an open search.  Not sure whether it should be national, the way Bxville did (I see they ended up with a local guy), but it does no harm to make it that broad.  Looks like it doesn’t even cost anything to put the word out.  Do it.

By Do it - advertise the job on 05/26/2014 at 12:43 pm

BOARD MEMBERS: ask around and see which towns have actual administrators.

By Do your research on 05/26/2014 at 3:10 pm

It will be very telling to see what the Board does.  I would hate to see them go through a process and end up with the status quo.  Wait isn’t that what TNC campaigned against? It would seem people would want to come to NC but the problem is that the word is out among the local Administrators that they would be crazy to work for this bunch.  New Castle was always a great place to work.  Not any more.

By what will tbey do? on 05/26/2014 at 4:43 pm

Let’s see what the Town Board decides to do.  Time is ticking on the contract prepared by the new attorneys.  Seems like they are working for Jill rather than the Town.  But wait the new attorneys are Greenstein’s friends.  So let’s see how the entire Board handles this. It will be very telling.

By enough already on 05/26/2014 at 5:21 pm

As I said not one cite.  It seems as if the issue is with team NC not Jill Shapiro.  Y’all have said as much.  So, now we turn to the town board.  Last I heard, a 3-2 vote was ok with a 5 person board.

By mother, daughter, friend, neighbor on 05/26/2014 at 9:39 pm

NDFN   there are a lot of complaints about Shapiro both from residents and employees.  Yes the voting will determine.

By better check on it on 05/27/2014 at 8:26 am

M,d,f,n,

Her people skills stink.  She rarely has an answer when questioned at meetings and when she does answer it is erroneous like at the LWVoters .  The moral at town hall and among departments is at an all time low.  She was appointed by a back room deal

Give it up Rob.

By give it up rob on 05/27/2014 at 8:54 am

m,d,f,n,

What can you cite that. Ms.  Shapiro has done that is laudable ?  Please be specific.

By give it up on 05/27/2014 at 9:12 am

mother, daughter, friend, neighbor,

Must say your post sounds like an intimidation to the town board.  Was that your intention ?

You are doing your friend, mother, daughter or possibly wife no favors with these preposterous posts.  Do you think that Jill would not hold up to competition ?  What do you have against an open process.  As one commenter has said, if she has integrity, Jill
would be the FIRST to call for an open process.  This appointment is tainted.

By open process, please on 05/27/2014 at 10:00 am

Was my intention to intimidate the town board as open process, please suggests?  intimidate them into what?  I think the t board should vote on Jill Shapiro’s appointment in private and whether the vote it 5-0, 4-1 or 3-2 the entire board should live with it.  I do not think that there is any need for the position to be advertised.  I think the tb was transparent in saying this is a 6 month trial.  A trial is just that, a try out.  I do not think it means this is 6 months and we then put it out to resumes.  Are there any benefits to having an open search?  I can imagine some, yes.  Are there any benefits to trying someone out for 6 months and if they perform well they get another 18 months? I can imagine some, yes.

I do not think the tb has a “duty” as written by the editor to have a complete search.  I imagine the hiring of town personnel is in their job description and the method of picking someone is left to their discretion.

The ad hominem attacks on Shapiro are misguided.  Maybe you don’t like the process by which she was selected or maybe you don’t like her, but that is the board’s call.  Or maybe you think the board should put every decision up to a survey vote to see if the electorate approves?

As for one thing to cite that is laudable, I would point to the efficient snow removal process from this past harsh snowy winter.

By mother, daughter, friend, neighbor on 05/27/2014 at 1:31 pm

Give it up…,
  I disagree re: her people skills.  I recieve prompt replies to inquires (an improvement compared to the previous administrator) often times at hours long after Town hall has closed. 

The idea of a consultant to help with a search is silly - a consultant would just be another layer of bueracracy, more gov expenditures.

 


By Chris Roberta on 05/27/2014 at 2:02 pm

It’s unfortunate that the supervisor wasn’t elected with a six month trial period. We are stuck with him and the other board members elected with him until their current term ends. Let’s hope there isn’t another one.

By Long Time Resident on 05/28/2014 at 6:56 am

Jill Shapiro isn’t qualified for the job of administrator and if she was why would she mind a little healthily competition for her job…
She is adding more staff to town hall when it is not needed and she doesn’t have the personality for the job not to mention the schooling.  Every administrator in Westchester has a masters in public service Ms Shapiro does not.  If she is the best person for the job she should have it BUT we will never know because once again Team New Castle doesn’t stand by what it campaigned for….Open and Transparent my Tush

By Shaprio isn't qualified on 05/30/2014 at 7:24 pm

For the past 5 months, has she been ok?

By extend the trial period on 05/31/2014 at 5:26 am

Not sure if she’s been okay. Are you?

How familiar are you with the state of things in the town clerk’s office, DPW, parks & rec, the town planning process and other building dept activities, the assessor’s office, the state of the master plan, and the police dept???  If you are sure she’s doing a fine job, please substantiate it with data or at least anecdotes. 

By Is Jill Shapiro ok? on 06/01/2014 at 7:33 am

Why not have another useless survey on this issue?

By lets take a survey on 06/06/2014 at 8:33 am


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