Before the city of Monroe hires a new manager, it intends to spend up to $50,000 to study why managers keep quitting.
Monroe councilwoman Margaret Desio came up with the plan, and said she hopes it will help the city reverse that trend. Monroe is looking to hire its fourth city manager since late 2000.
“There’s no point in continuing a pattern,” Desio said. “Something’s not working.”
Other North Carolina towns of similar size average about one manager per 12 years, Desio said, and several executive search firms told her that managers typically last from eight to 10 years.
City Council voted last month to hire consultants Parker Poe Adams and Bernstein of Charlotte to study the relationships between City Council, the manager’s office and senior city staff – at a cost ranging from $35,000 to $50,000. The city expects to have the report back in a couple weeks, spokesman Pete Hovanec said.
City Council also approved spending $21,500 on the Florida search firm Colin Baenziger and Associates to help it find a new manager, a process that will start after the report comes back.
Manager turnover impacts staff morale, hurts council’s effectiveness and tarnishes the city’s image, Desio said. She said the study should hone in on where the problems lie so council can work to address them.
“There’s no point getting a new manager without fixing this,” she said.
After that happens, she said, the city can move forward with hiring a new manager although Desio does not expect a new leader to be chosen until the spring.
In July, City Manager Wayne Herron abruptly quit following heated closed-door debate among council members over his decision not to grant a performance bonus to Police Chief Debra Duncan. One council member even taped Herron without his knowledge because she didn’t think other members would believe their conversation.
In a statement to the Observer, Herron said he had been stressed over issues that have been developing for more than a year, and were related to political disagreements with council members over Duncan’s compensation, insurance and potential successor.
Because of his employment contract, Herron received a lump sum payment equal to his annual salary of $150,654 after he resigned. Assistant City Manager Greg Demko was named interim city manager.
Herron lasted three years and two months on the job. He had succeeded Craig Meadows, who served for three years and four months until he quit in February 2009.
At the time, a city news release said, “The council was looking to move in a new management direction to lead the city.”
Before Meadows, Doug Spell was manager for four years and five months.
He abruptly resigned in May 2005 following closed sessions by council on his annual performance evaluation. Spell also had issues with the way the police department was being run, internal documents showed.
Monroe didn’t always have a problem with manager turnover, however.
Before Spell, Jerry Cox spent more than nine years running the city. And his predecessor, Jim Hinkel, was in charge for nearly 36 years in a career that spanned from the late 1950s to the early 1990s.