12 February 2011

Skewed process taints manager search

Published Saturday, Feb.12, 2011  http://savannahnow.com/opinion/2011-02-12/letters-editor-sunday - the Headline says Sunday but it is really Saturday. 

Letters to the editor Sunday

Posted: February 12, 2011 - 12:18am  |  Updated: February 12, 2011 - 11:12am

Skewed process taints manager search

By Thomas M. Daniels III

Among its many nonprofit functions to improve U.S. local governments and the professionalism of city and county managers, the International City & County Management Association (ICMA) conducts a multitude of surveys. Its most recent State of the Profession Survey was done in 2009 and sent to all 7,237 city governments with a population of at least 2,500 and to 1,311 county governments.

A total of 2,214 (26 percent) of city and county managers completed the survey and 1,998 (23 percent of those surveyed) answered the question as to their race. Of those 1,900 (95.1 percent) were white, 51 (2.6 percent) were black, and 47 (2.4 percent) were of other races.

It follows that the racial breakdown of the search universe for our city manager should have closely mirrored those statistics. Applying those percentages to the pool of 86 Affion candidates interested in the Savannah vacancy, it should have approximated 82 whites, two blacks, and two of other races.

By extension, the eight resumes selected by Affion for review by our city council should have been roughly 7.6 whites, 0.2 blacks, and 0.2 other. However, the search firm presented six blacks, two whites, and zero others. Quite obviously, Affion received instructions from the city to deliver an overwhelmingly black slate of candidates. Otherwise, the odds of such an outcome are extremely remote if not impossible.

When Mayor Otis Johnson was elected many whites voted for him instead of the white candidates, Dicky Mopper or Frank Rossiter. But since the deck was stacked in favor of blacks in this hiring decision, Otis and company have undermined the ability of black candidates to garner white support in the next election.

Worse yet, as highly educated people and public officials, they're setting very bad examples for young enlightened blacks who rely strictly on merit and strong work ethics. Rather than burying affirmative action, reverse discrimination against whites, and racial cronyism, the bad examples are promoting it.

Equally disturbing is the handling of Acting City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney's bonding problem. As interim city manager, it's her responsibility to ensure city employees are in compliance with the city charter, ordinances, etc. If indeed she didn't know about the bond requirement, she's incompetent. But given her 20 years in city management with the last three in Savannah, most likely she knew and didn't comply, which is malfeasance. Instead of terminating her, or so much as disqualifying her as a candidate for city manager, Otis circled the wagons to protect her and, incredibly, not one alderperson objected.

On the Affion Public website, the closing line of our city manager search criteria reads:

"This individual must be able to adhere to the highest ethical and moral standards and be able to display transparency."

If the one hired actually lived up to those standards, he or she would be in a snake pit. Let's hope we can get past this sad chapter in Savannah history and base hiring decisions strictly on merit.

Mr. Daniels is a Savannah native, retired headhunter, and principal of the nonprofit Cambodia Corps, Inc.

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