Diverse groups call for input on Tucson city manager hiring process

tucson-city-council-chambersAlmost immediately after the announcement that Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda was retiring, community leaders started demanding that the residents become part of the new manager selection process. Those demands increased due to the “sudden fiscal conservatism” the Council is hinting at in the agenda for today’s Tucson City Council Study session.

The session, scheduled for 2:00 p.m. in Mayor and Council Chamber is expected to be heavily attended by residents who have questions about the agenda and specifically Item 7:

Financial Considerations – City staff will be present at today’s meeting to provide information relating to the estimated cost of a “typical” all inclusive executive recruitment. Expenses related to a recruitment and selection also include costs to bring candidates in for interviews or other steps in the selection process. A “typical” recruitment includes a limited number of on-site meetings; additional meetings (for example, with community groups or other stakeholders) would increase the cost. The option is available to utilize an executive recruitment firm for an “all inclusive” process, or only for selected phases of the process while using in-house staff for portions of the process.

In an email sent out to residents, one community leader wrote that the City’s “financial considerations” are so “unspecific and nebulously worded to allow spending on anything….. But, of course, cost has nothing to do with their concern about meetings with the community. When was the last time this council ever cared about cost???

As a result of their concerns that the Council “can blab all they want about how open they would like to be but — like the scorpion in the lake on the back of the frog — it is just their nature to cut a back-room deal, as they have for the last three (at least) managers.”

Community leader and chairman of the Sunnyside Recall Committee, Richard Hernandez, wrote to each Council member last week demanding that there be community involvement in the selection of a new City Manager. Hernandez wrote, “I know historically speaking when City Manager Keene was selected there was a committee of community leaders involved in the recommendation as to who would be the best leader. I feel that failure to allow community input is clearly a violation of community trust.”

It has been rumored that former TUSD attorney Martha Durkin is considered a favorite for the spot. She left TUSD after the District was found to have violated Open meeting laws and took a job with Tucson’s City Attorney.

Some members in the business community have started a whisper campaign to recruit Rio Nuevo District Board chair Fletcher McCusker. One businessman behind the campaign argues that McCusker is a savy businessman who cares about the City, has worked hard to bring life back to downtown Tucson, and knows how to run a corporation with stockholders. They say that because the taxpayers are the stockholders, perhaps “someone who has had to answer to tough questions from smart people on a regular basis” might be more accountable than what Tucson has had historically.

Currently, the Manager and Council members answer to a handful of cronies and neighborhood associations with the vast majority of the residents having little or no access or say.

If residents have their way, they will have a say in the matter and the process will be transparent with diverse sectors of the community able to weigh in.