5/21/2013 1:34:00 PM Charting the city's future course
By David A. Asson
On a Tuesday past, I met in private with Mayor Boyd and Interim Manager Andrew Gorayeb. We spent two hours at Lake Creek Lodge discussing "city governance." Good and candid stuff with progress! Still, our ideals do not neatly mesh. I am concerned. A look at the recent past and where we are tells why.
The Past: An announcement was published that Eileen Stein resigned her post. In legal terms she did. But in reality the notice was slanted. A clandestine meeting was used by Mayor Boyd and councilor Womack to tell her she was no longer wanted. It was time for change. There was no need to meet with council minority. Simultaneous phone calls were sufficient to inform them that things had been taken care of. Childress and Asson were asked to keep quiet to prevent the community outcry that occurred the last time she was asked to leave. When questioned about the exclusionary process, Boyd simply said: "We have the votes."
A month of negotiations and a threat of a lawsuit against the councilors secured a resignation for $108,000 - double Eileen's contract rate. Expensive and more so, disruptive! It will be hard to find applicants who can meet Sisters' written job description. Then how will qualified candidates respond to the manner in which Ms. Stein was forced to leave? We join Redmond, La Pine, and Deschutes County in learning a hard lesson.
The threesome feel they made their decisions within public meeting rules, but can't honestly claim to have met the intent of that law. If the agenda behind these unethical practices continues, it will harm Sisters for months. Spinnings, such as $108,000 being a customary severance under the circumstances are troubling and misleading given the tortured negotiations that led to the settlement. Past is often prologue to the future. Time will tell if this is the "leadership" citizens of Sisters embrace.
Today: Andrew Gorayeb was hastily hired as interim manager for four months under a limited duration provision that means his contract can be routinely extended by majority vote. Andrew is bold, spontaneous, experienced in finance, business and realty but has no formal training in municipal operations. He quickly undertook a major project to re-allocate existing reserves to stabilize city finances and establish a fund dedicated to future needs. He is also completing a debt refinancing of $7,400,000 to reduce interest expense and lessen loan payments.
After three weeks in office, Mayor Boyd asked council to consider extending Andrew's term to 12 months. The request was postponed to late July but that guarantees a contract extension given the time needed for recruitment. Andrew is paid $7,000 a month plus benefits.
Our Lake Creek chat suggests the Boyd administration may become more open. And Andrew's programs can benefit Sisters. As encouraging as this may seem, it masks critical long-term objectives. Common practice recommends commencing an immediate search for a professionally trained city manager. As beneficial as the initial programs may become, casually extending Andrew's role effectively appoints him as permanent manager with broad influence over policy and direction as he widens his scope.
I do support stability and wise financing but strongly oppose the unstructured manner in which our future is being cast. I sense that an uncharted, "let's see what happens" course is in play with votes available if needed. Prudent management requires long-range planning. Perhaps Andrew should either campaign for the permanent city manager role or complete his worthy projects as a consultant while the city gets on with a proper replacement program. Full disclosure and truth always benefit the public.