According to reports from inside the city manager search, several councilors pushed for the appointment of controversial candidate Rick Finn while harshly criticizing Sage Gerling’s qualifications, including her connection to the Geneva community. City Council also reportedly discussed, but eventually rejected, the public release of the names of the final three.
Latest Reports: How We Got Our Final Three
The City Manager Search Community Committee held their first meeting on April 18th. Members of the committee were given the names and applications of all candidates for the job. Members were also required to sign confidentiality forms.
In a press release from the city on that same day, it was clearly stated that, even though confidentiality agreements were signed, the city would, in fact, be able to release the names of the candidates who made it to the “final rounds of interviews.”
Mayor Ron Alcock greeted the members and thanked them for volunteering for this very important task. After introductions, the members signed confidentiality agreements. This process being confidential is an industry practice that allows the privacy of the applicants until they reach the final rounds of interviews.
- The City Manager Search Community Committee members used a scoring system to narrow the list of twenty-two applicants. Phone interviews were conducted and score cards were handed in after each interview.
- In April, Geneva Believer reported that the scorecards only allowed for committee members to vote “Yes,” “Maybe” or “No,” without any other commentary or feedback.
- According to reports, the search committee was given no protocols or instructions on how to conduct the interviews, and that committee members were restricted to using the scorecard system to provide all feedback.
- Sources report that many members of the search committee, and even some council members, failed to do any online research on the candidates, and instead relied solely on resumes and phone interviews when reviewing the candidates.
- Eventually, the field was narrowed to three finalists: Rick Finn, Martin Murphy and Sage Gerling.
- City Council reportedly would not consider any other candidates at this point, and would only select a new city manager from the final three.
- Council also reportedly discussed whether to publicly release the names of the three finalists, due to the city’s previous statements saying that privacy for applicants would only be preserved until the final rounds, but ultimately decided to keep the names secret.
Council Reportedly Clashed On Gerling, Some Wanted Finn
Four of the nine members of council are reported to have strongly opposed the appointment of Gerling as city manager, while putting their full support behind the appointment of Rick Finn.
At least two members of council reportedly expressed their belief that one of Gerling’s flaws was her connection to the community and her willingness to engage with residents.
Another councilor reportedly argued that Gerling lacked the confidence to manage alone due to her plans to use a “team management” approach at City Hall.
It’s also been reported that a contractor was unhappy negotiating with Gerling and that he told some council members that he didn’t want to negotiate with a woman. Those councilors reportedly cited Gerling’s “lack of experience in negotiating contracts” as a reason to remove her name from consideration.
During a discussion of Finn’s controversial history, one councilor reportedly stated that they would not use Google for research, because if someone did a Google search on that councilor, they might unfairly conclude that the councilor is a “bad” person.
Eventually, Council voted unanimously to appoint Gerling.
They Still Don’t Get It
A front page Finger Lakes Times article announcing Gerling’s appointment on July 29th stated that Mayor Ron Alcock
expressed thanks to “all of the community members, including our search committee, for all of your feedback and conversations regarding the city manager search. In addition to community members, we heard from several of Sage’s colleagues on her competence and their confidence in her leadership of the city team.”
When those community members criticized council for the lack of transparency in the process and the lack of diversity on the search committee, Alcock repeatedly stated that the process could not and would not be made more transparent, and that he strongly opposed adding any new members to the search committee, which had been suggested by residents and supported by Ward 4 Councilor Ken Camera in April.
The only reason community members voiced their support for Sage was because her candidacy was leaked by an insider. It’s disingenuous for the Mayor to thank the community when his actions showed that he didn’t want them involved in any appreciable way and he didn’t want them to know that Gerling was in the final three.
In the same article, Ward 5 Councilor Jason Hagerman said:
“Regarding the criticism of the process, it’s part of the gig. I felt that Council had a good process, nearly identical to when we had hired Matt Horn. Speaking of Matt Horn, this appointment speaks to the team he left us with as his legacy, so if you’re reading, Matt, thank you!”
Hagerman says the search process was “nearly identical” to the process used to hire Matt Horn, but fails to acknowledge that the process was significantly less transparent this time around. He does not directly address specific concerns expressed by residents about the search process, instead shrugging off those concerns as being “part of the gig” for a councilor. Hagerman oddly signs off with a shout-out to former City Manager Matt Horn, who abruptly and surprisingly left the job last December.
When faced with serious and uncomfortable questions about transparency and potential corruption, this city council has shown time and again that they will either minimize or simply refuse to address those questions. In this case, only two out of nine council members commented publicly when the search process concluded, and neither of them acknowledged or validated any of the issues raised by residents during the search process.
The appointment of Sage Gerling is not proof that the search process “worked.”
If “yes-maybe-no” was the ONLY feedback the search committee was allowed to provide, the process was flawed.
If the committee was only 33% women in a city that is 53% women, the process was flawed.
If seven out of twenty committee members represented corporate, banking, and real estate interests rather than the interests of the working class majority, the process was flawed.
If council decided not to hold any public forums and instead relied on an English-only survey that only .0052% of residents completed to gather public feedback, the process was flawed.
If the process resulted in two out of three finalists with repeated accusations of discrimination, misconduct, bullying, corruption, racism, and harassment throughout their careers, the process was flawed.
It doesn’t appear that this city council will engage in any public reflection or critical thought related to the disastrous city manager search.
Hopefully, the next city council will.
Citizen Journalism Grows In Geneva
Residents may have seen a free monthly bilingual newspaper on their doorsteps or around town in the last couple of months: The People’s Paper, brought to you by the Geneva Women’s Assembly.
The People’s Paper has a terrific summary of the city manager search in the latest edition (Issue 2).
If you would like to have The People’s Paper delivered to your home, send them a message on their Facebook page. or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
You can also download the first two issues at the links below.