IN THEIR WORDS: Council explains secrecy on city manager candidates

5:17 p.m Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 Local
Ralph Barrera
Austin City Council members, shown at a meeting in August, voted earlier this year to keep the city manager applicants’ names confidential until a lone finalist is picked.

We asked all of the City Council members why they voted in favor of complete secrecy for hiring the city’s top job.

Mayor Steve Adler: “The advice we were getting is that we would have the best and widest, deepest applicant pool if candidates knew their identities would not be mentioned.”

Council Member Ora Houston: “I’ve lived in Austin long enough to know that if you give the city a list of people, they will pick them apart. That’s not what this should be about.”

Council Member Delia Garza: “I didn’t understand it as waiting to the end and then only releasing one name… That being said, it was recommended by the (search firm) that it could affect the pool and, at the end of the day, I wanted the best pool.”

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Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria: “We thought there might be some kind of negative effect, if they were to announce out in the open, (and) we wouldn’t get as many qualified candidates. That’s what our consultant appraised us.”

Council Member Greg Casar: “We, as a group, believed that qualified candidates would not apply if it could put their jobs at risk. Council had to make a tough decision and we decided we wanted to have the best candidates.”

Council Member Ann Kitchen: Declined to discuss her vote, but said: “It’s important to recognize that we have the broadest, most qualified group to interview that we possibly can. That involves some level of discretion at the beginning of the process. I will support more community engagement at the end.”

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan: “It’s very common practice, especially in the private sector, that when you’re seeking candidates for an executive position, there are people who are good at their jobs and may be excellent at it, but they don’t want to burn any bridges where they are. It gives us a stronger slate of candidates.”

THE BACK STORY: Austin will keep city manager search a secret

Council Member Leslie Pool: “Maybe from the dais (it was unanimous) but we had long conversations… I wanted to have input from the public, from residents. I wanted to see those interactions. That was not a majority opinion at that point and I thought it was more important that we have a (unanimous) vote.”

Council Member Ellen Troxclair: “The advice we received from the professionals was that a lot of people who are going to be the best candidates are people who already have really great jobs… They might be less likely to apply if they’re going to risk their current jobs.”

Council Member Kathie Tovo: “The council decided to have the process be confidential so excellent candidates would not fear applying… It would be ideal if, at the end of the process, the final candidates have an option to do a public presentation. That’s not what we agreed to, but I hope we can revisit it.”

Council Member Alison Alter: Declined to discuss her vote, but said: “I actually don’t think it’s realistic (to maintain secrecy) when we get down to three. I’m not interested in hiring someone who can’t talk to the staff.”

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