Bourey to county: Thanks, but no thanks


James Bourey, shown in this May 16, 2013 file photo, has withdrawn from contract negotiations after being chosen as Alachua County's new county manager.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.

Alachua County's top candidate for county manager, James Bourey of Greenville, S.C., has withdrawn from contract negotiations to pursue a position elsewhere.

In a letter to Commissioner Mike Byerly, Bourey extended "heartfelt thanks" for the County Commission's support but wrote he previously had told county representatives about his involvement in several recruitment processes for manager positions at the local government level.

"While Alachua County has always been high on my list, I want to formally withdraw from further contract negotiations to pursue another position," he wrote.

Bourey has spent about 35 years working in local government over the course of his career, including stints as city manager in Greenville, county administrator in Hennepin County, Minn., and senior assistant county administrator in Hillsborough County. He works for an accounting and consulting firm in Greenville as its director of corporate development.

He wrote in his letter Thursday that the commission's most recent contract offer, which the board approved Tuesday in a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Charles "Chuck" Chestnut IV and Lee Pinkoson in dissent, went a long way in addressing his issues.

"However, I believe another position will offer me the challenges I seek and provides a better match for my background," he wrote. "Please understand this should not reflect in any negative way on the wonderful place you have in Alachua."

Bourey mentioned in a previous letter that he was concerned the county's initial base salary offer of $160,000 was beneath the market rate for managerial positions in similar counties within and outside of Florida. He also pointed out the wide gap between his current salary of about $191,000 and the county's proposed salary.

The commission increased the annual salary to $165,000 on Tuesday and made some other changes, although it didn't grant all the suggestions Bourey made.

At Tuesday's meeting, Chestnut made a motion to end negotiations with Bourey that failed in a 2-3 vote with Byerly and Commissioners Susan Baird and Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson in dissent.

In an interview with The Sun on Thursday, Bourey declined to comment on both the failed vote to terminate negotiations with him and the position for which he has withdrawn his local candidacy to pursue. He did say he applied for that position and the Alachua County job around the same time.

"I mean, the Alachua County position was wonderful and very positive, and I think it would have been a good fit, but I think this position fits my background and skills better," he said.

The selection process for county manager has been a positive experience for him, he told The Sun. "I have great respect for Alachua County and the people of the community."

The commission will address Bourey's withdrawal from negotiations at its meeting Tuesday, said Mark Sexton, the county's communications coordinator.

"The next step is to bring up Mr. Bourey's letter at the County Commission meeting on Tuesday and make sure the board has a clear direction moving forward," he said.

The commission previously selected Stockton Whitten, the deputy county manager in Brevard County, as its No. 2 pick for county manager. Commissioners on Tuesday may decide to begin negotiations with Whitten, who is a University of Florida alumnus and former Alachua County intern.

Its third choice was Charles Oliver, who is the CEO of Oliver & Associates in Pensacola but has previously worked as the county administrator in Escambia County and, like Bourey, as city manager in Greenville.

Acting County Manager Rick Drummond has filled the role since January 2012 when longtime employee Randall Reid left to take the same position in Sarasota County.

Pinkoson, who on Tuesday voted with Chestnut in favor of ending negotiations with Bourey, said he plans to support the start of contract negotiations with Whitten. He said he hopes the commission will decide to offer Whitten the original contract it gave Bourey, which included a base salary of $160,000, and proceed from there.

Bourey has his sights set on another job, Pinkoson said, so the commission should move on, too.

"He sounds like he's heading in a different direction, so we need to do likewise," he said.

One of the lessons learned from this situation, Pinkoson said, was that one of the county's interview questions should have been, "What are your expectations for benefits and salary?" But, he pointed out, hindsight is always 20/20.

Asking top candidates that question would have helped commissioners see how close or far apart they would be in their negotiations from the get-go. It could have potentially made a difference in how the board ranked its five finalists, he said.

Pinkoson told his fellow commissioners on Tuesday he was taken aback by Bourey's counteroffer, which suggested some benefits that went beyond what county employees typically receive. He said Bourey's version of the contract reflected poorly on his style of leadership and gave the impression he wanted to be treated differently.

Pinkoson told The Sun on Thursday that the county already differentiates the county manager from the rank and file by the size of the salary and some additional benefits, such as a car allowance.

Byerly, who has been involved in negotiations with Bourey, said in a Thursday interview with The Sun that he was unhappy with the way Bourey was treated during the selection process.

"Personally, I feel that Mr. Bourey was rather shabbily treated by some who preferred another candidate," he said. "I'm not real impressed with how our process has worked so far."

Byerly said the commission would discuss Bourey's withdrawal Tuesday, during which he will have more to say on the subject.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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