City Council looking into whether city manager search firm breached contract
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council is questioning whether the search firm it paid to help find its next city manager thoroughly vetted all of the candidates and delivered on all of its promises.
One council member said Wednesday he was bothered after Slavin Management Consultants initially did not provide some detailed information about one of the finalist’s rocky tenures at his last job that was easily discoverable through a Google search the councilman did himself.
The firm also reportedly relied on a two-year-old field interview it had conducted of one of the semi-finalists before that candidate was fired from his most recent job.
“We don’t feel we were given what we bought,” Council President Walter Magill said Tuesday night after councilwoman Robin Crossan first raised the issue about the firm’s performance and requested the council debrief and review its contract with the firm to see if it was breached.
The council hired the firm at a cost of $23,459.
While the council is happy with its selection of Gary Suiter for the manager job after the search process, the council could soon meet with its attorney in an executive session to review its contract with the search firm and determine whether it should pay the full balance of an outstanding invoice for the firm’s services.
Council President Pro-Tem Jason Lacy said when Slavin presented the council with a list of 10 semi-finalists, the search firm did not provide detailed information about one of the candidate’s short and rocky tenures in El Paso County.
Lacy said the firm also used an old field interview it had done with the candidate in 2014, a year before the candidate was fired from his last job after a 10-month stint.
“That bothered me,” Lacy said. “I just have some concerns that some of those contractual requirements for field interviews and due diligence didn’t occur.”
The council was expecting the search firm to do face to face interviews with all of the semi-finalists.
Lacy said he was able to find more details about Steve Norwood’s short tenure as county administrator, and the fact that he was fired because his bosses had concerns about the amount of time he was spending out of the office, by doing a simple Google search.
When the Steamboat Today Googled the finalists when they were first announced, newspaper articles about Norwood and his firing were among the first results that showed up for Norwood.
“The search firm really didn’t give us a lot of detail at that meeting when we had the list of candidates down to 10, and we selected Norwood as one of the four finalists,” Lacy said. “They just said there were issues that came up at his last job, and it was because of personal matters. Once we narrowed it down, they did give us more detail about how it had been a short stint.”
In its proposal to the city, Slavin touted its vetting process and background checks of candidates.
The firm’s vetting process wasn’t the only concern council had about the search firm’s performance.
According to the proposal Slavin submitted to the city, the search firm was supposed to have a representative at the interviews the council conducted of the finalists on Friday and also at the meeting where the council was to start negotiating a contract with the chosen candidate.
No representative was in attendance at either meeting.
The council has asked Director of General Services Anne Small to review Slavin’s contract and to double check to see if it was breached.
“We need to look at the contract itself and the promises that were made and see if everything was done as promised,” Councilwoman Crossan said.
Councilman Tony Connell said the council should also evaluate whether there was value in having a recruiter handle the search.
Bob Slavin, head of Slavin Management Consultants, was out of town Wednesday from his office in Georgia and unavailable for comment.
A representative who answered the phone at his office said it is the company’s policy not to make comments to the media.
The requests for comment are instead directed to the municipality that is conducting the search.
The search firm had caused an eariler hiccup for the council when it told Steamboat Today the names of the four finalists the council had chosen for the job would not be named publicly until weeks after the list had been narrowed.
The city released the names earlier than that because under Colorado Open Records laws, the names of the finalists must be released after they have accepted the offer of being a finalist.
City officials and the council said they were surprised by the longer timeline suggested by Slavin.
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As Steamboat Springs and Routt County ease out of the pandemic, I’m thrilled to see a full slate of community events on the calendar in the coming months.