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.
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