2015-10-01 / Front Page

Council Screening Panelists

By Tom Walsh

In its search for a new city manager, the Newport City Council is still working to name members of a steering committee to evaluate potential candidates for the job.

“Each council member will provide names as to who they’d like to see on the committee,” Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano reiterated on Tuesday, Sept. 29. “We hope to have the names by next Monday (Oct. 5).”

Meanwhile, the mayor announced that first-term Second Ward Councilor Lynn U. Ceglie will play an active role in the new city manager selection process.

“We’re trying to get this done as fast as we can,” Ceglie said. “And I’m just trying to help the process as best I can. I’m going to be the point person for the council on this. I hope to be able to bring all of the information together in one concise package.”

Originally, the council had informally agreed almost a week earlier to have names of potential members of a seven-person steering committee by Friday, Sept. 25.

However, Napolitano said that since then she thought that it may also be appropriate to invite steering panel applications in a more public way. “I’m under the assumption that we do have to put out the word to see if people in the community are interested,” she said.

The mayor said the call for committee nominations could go out on Engage Newport, an extension of the city’s official website that encourages residents to “share, get involved and voice their opinions on citywide projects and plans.”

She added that advertisements for the city manager’s position itself should also be ready during the week of Oct. 5. Michael J. Coury, the city’s human resources administrator, agreed that advertisements would likely be running some time that week.

Coury, who said his department has an annual budget of $20,000 for these purposes, estimated that advertising for city manager candidates would cost about $5,000. An ad will run once in print in the Providence Journal. The rest of the campaign, he said, would be handled electronically through the websites of organizations such as the National League of Cities and Towns and the International City Managers Association, as well as sites like governmentjobs.com.

“We seem to get more bang for our buck with the electronic sites,” Coury said, adding that one newspaper insertion would cost about $800 while electronic advertising costs about half that much but runs for about 30 days.

Coury added that the city also pays travel and lodging expenses for any city manager candidates who are asked to come to Newport from afar for interviews. “In those cases we treat the candidates as guests in our community,” he said.

“Most likely we will have some candidates from out of town,” Coury said. “That is why the screening process is paramount. We don’t want to bring candidates to the city who we really don’t want, and vice versa.”

Ceglie said she would also be working on the copy for advertising the city manager’s position. “The council will give me edits,” she said.

Once the steering committee has been named, Napolitano said, the panel will go right to work.

“Once we start receiving applications, that committee of seven will go through all of them,” the mayor said. “They may do it as a group, or they could also do it individually.”

The city manager’s position was left vacant when its most recent permanent occupant, Jane Howington, resigned in June, 2014. Since then, the manager’s position has been filled on an interim basis by former City Solicitor Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. The task of replacing Howington may have been delayed by the November 2014 elections. The current City Council was seated in January.

The council spent much of 2015 working with a Connecticut-based consultant to identify candidates for the position, but councilors were unable to agree on a new manager from the recommended talent pool.

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