2016-01-28 / Front Page

Manager Interviews to Begin

By Tom Walsh

Determined to fill the position before the end of March, Newport City Councilors will interview two candidates for the long-available city manager’s job on Friday, Jan. 29.

“Now its full-speed ahead,” said Councilor Lynn U. Ceglie, the council’s liaison with the manager selection process. “We’ve chosen the applicants we want to interview right now. We’re looking for the best match for Newport. We’ll see how it goes.”

According to Michael J. Coury, the city’s human resources administrator, the candidates to be interviewed by the council were drawn from a list of 10 finalists selected by the anonymous seven-member screening committee from among 73 applicants. He said others from the list of 10 may also be interviewed. “They are still in the running,” he said.

“I just want to get on with the interviews so we can start our deliberations as soon as possible,” said Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano. “This is the first step. We have a great mix of candidates and now it’s up to the council to identify the best person to take Newport for- ward. It’s taken a lot longer than we’d contemplated.”

In December, city officials told Newport This Week that they hoped to wrap up the selection process by the end of February or early March. Subsequently, however, the process slowed during the holidays and the end of March apparently became a more realistic goal.

Newport has been without a permanent city manager since June, 2014, when Jane Howington resigned to take a similar post in Hudson, Ohio. Joseph J. Nicholson, who had been the city solicitor as well as a practicing attorney, has served in the interim. Some councilors apparently favored Nicholson for the permanent position. However, he made it known early on that he was not interested in the opportunity.

Coury and city councilors have emphasized the need to maintain privacy in the selection process to protect the interests of the candidates and not jeopardize their current jobs should they not be chosen for the Newport post.

“We have to keep the process pristine,” Coury said, adding that to do otherwise could result in litigation against the city. “We leave it to the candidates to decide when to inform their current employers.” He added that as interviews move further along, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain confidentiality.

If the process does go into late March, it would mean that finding Howington's replacement will have taken nearly 21 months to complete. The process began slowly, perhaps to enable the current council elected in November, 2014, to have a say in the outcome. The council first hired Randi Frank Consulting LLC, a Connecticut firm, to guide the search. However, the council subsequently declined to hire any of the applicants the consultant recommended. After that experience, the council decided to launch the current search using the city’s own resources.

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