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Monroe council OKs hiring of search firm to find interim city manager

A divided Monroe city council voted Wednesday to hire a search firm to help it land an interim city manager, even though it will still need to hire someone to find a permanent manager.

The move followed last week’s surprise dismissal of John D’Agostino after less than four months on the job, which left the city scrambling to find its fifth manager since late 2000.

Monroe currently has its two assistant city managers handling the city’s day to day work, Greg Demko and Brian Borne. Demko served as interim city manager for about a year before D’Agostino was hired.

The council voted 5-2, with Mayor Bobby Kilgore and Councilman Freddie Gordon the no votes, to hire a search firm. No time frame or budget was set for that work, city spokesman Pete Hovanec said, although the council created a sub-committee to handle the process of securing a firm.

“I don’t see any reason why we should hire anyone from the outside to run our city if you’ve already got the tools in your toolbox,” Kilgore said. “And the kicker is you’ve got to spend more money for a search firm for the interim manager.”

But Councilwoman Debra Duncan said while Demko had done a great job as interim manager there was no consensus on the board that he should do that work again. The council needs to work together for the good of the city, she said.

Duncan said the council did not hire a firm for a permanent manager because “we need to get someone to come in and start moving us forward today, not in six months.”

Councilman Lynn Keziah, a D’Agostino supporter, said it was better for the city to hire an interim manager who was not involved in any of the prior issues.

“Hopefully we can bring in a city manager who will last awhile,” Keziah said. “It’s embarrassing. We can’t seem to keep anyone for very long.”

D’Agostino was hired in mid-August to replace Wayne Herron, who quit in mid-2012.

When Kilgore was asked by the Observer if he thought the city would have trouble finding someone to take the job, given all the turnover, he responded, “If you ask 10 people that question, probably nine would say yes. But I’d say no....The process will take longer and candidates will look at us closer.”

A reversal on severance

Last week, the council voted 4-3 to terminate D’Agostino on the first night a new majority took control of the board. At the time, Duncan said the public, elected officials and city workers did not have confidence in D’Agostino.

The board also voted not to pay him his severance, citing Monroe’s personnel policy regarding employees having a six-month probationary period.

But D’Agostino, whose annual salary was $140,000, wrote the city and demanded his severance, noting that his contract stated severance was not dependent on completing a probationary period. He said his contract entitles him to nine months salary, or about $105,000.

On Wednesday, the board reversed itself and unanimously approved awarding the severance.

D’Agostino declined to comment after the vote.

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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