Liberty Lake City Council rejects mayor’s choice for city administrator, says it wants bigger role in hiring process
Liberty Lake City Council balked at confirming the man Mayor Cris Kaminskas chose to be the city’s next administrator on Tuesday night, opting instead to start the process over.
Councilman Mike Kennedy said he objects to the council being excluded from the selection process. The board was not told how many people applied for the position or who applied, Kennedy said. They found out with the public who the top two candidates were and didn’t have time to talk to the candidates or discuss the issue, Kennedy said.
“The board needs to be able to see all of the applications, not masked,” he said. “How can we say yes, we think you made the right choice?”
Liberty Lake has a strong mayor form of government. By law, the mayor selects the city administrator, but the city council must confirm the mayor’s choice and approve the employment contract.
Kennedy also alluded to issues with the background of candidate Bradley Myers, whom Kaminskas selected and was in contract negotiations with. “This individual had another challenge with the city he worked for,” he said.
According to an article in the Mascoutah Herald newspaper, Myers was fired from his former job as city manager in Mascoutah, Illinois, in November. No reason was given, but the city’s mayor released a statement that the city council had “lost trust, faith and trust in the relationship” with Myers.
Since then, according to the Herald, the city has filed a lawsuit against Myers for destroying government property. The city alleges in the lawsuit that after being fired, Myers deleted all information on his city-issued iPhone and iPad, possibly erasing city records to be kept, and then refused to provide the words of passes devices once he has returned them.
Myers did not respond to a request for comment.
Kaminskas said in an interview Wednesday that Myers was fired shortly after a new mayor took office in Mascoutah and that it’s common for new mayors to want new staff. “It actually happened during the interview process,” she said. “He contacted me.”
She said she also knew about the lawsuit against Myers before she offered him a contract. “I was satisfied with the information I got on this,” she said. “That was not a factor in my decision.”
Liberty Lake received a dozen applications for the position of city administrator after former city administrator Katy Allen announced her retirement after 10 years with the city. The pool of applicants was narrowed down to four, all of whom were interviewed by Kaminskas, Allen and the city’s director of human resources.
From there, the field was narrowed down to three, all of whom were interviewed by three panels – a panel of community members, a panel of representatives from partner agencies such as the Spokane Valley Fire Department and the Washington State Department of Transportation; and a panel of city department directors. The top two contenders — Myers and former Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus — then took part in a three-hour open house so residents could come meet them and ask questions.
Kennedy said the board wasn’t involved until the final stage, the open house. He recommended hiring a recruiting firm to help with the city search. “The board needs to be involved at all of these levels,” he said. “We all need to be on the same page.”
Councilor Wendy Van Orman encouraged Kaminskas to include the council in the hiring process. “You want that membership,” she said. “We are a team.”
Councilwoman Annie Kurtz said she agrees council needs to be involved in the process, although it is up to the mayor to select the candidate he prefers.
“The system works best when we all know there are checks and balances,” Councilman Chris Cargill said.
The council cannot confirm the mayor’s selection if it does not have access to the same information as the mayor, Cargill said. “I think that’s where the process went sideways,” he said. “In this particular situation, the council did not have the information it needed.”
Kaminskas said Wednesday that she was looking for recruiting firms and would have information to present at the city council’s next meeting on Feb. 1. “It looks like the board wants to start over with a recruiting firm,” she said.
Council will need to approve a contract with a recruiting firm to conduct a search for the next city administrator.
While the search continues, Director of Operations and Maintenance Jennifer Camp, who Kaminskas says is “doing a fantastic job,” will continue to serve as the interim city administrator.