County to discuss manager negotiations Tuesday


In this May 16, 2013 file photo, Charles Oliver, center, meets locals at a meet-and-greet the top five candidates for Alachua County manager. After being rejected by its top two choices, the county is now negotiating with Oliver.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, June 24, 2013 at 7:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 24, 2013 at 7:46 p.m.

Alachua County's search for a new leader continues, with the County Commission expected to discuss ongoing negotiations with its third choice for county manager at its Tuesday meeting.

Charles Oliver, who goes by Randy, was ranked third by the board behind fellow finalists James Bourey and Stockton Whitten, both of whom withdrew from negotiations earlier this month.

The county has offered Oliver the initial contract it presented to the previous two candidates, which includes a $160,000 base salary.

Bourey withdrew to pursue another position, while Whitten ended negotiations in the interest of remaining with Brevard County, where he works as deputy county manager.

In an email to commissioners this week, Oliver wrote he reviewed the initial contract as well as another one offered to Bourey. After receiving Bourey's counteroffer, the commission approved a new version of the contract in a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Charles "Chuck" Chestnut IV and Lee Pinkoson in dissent. It included a $5,000 pay bump that would have set his salary at $165,000, among other changes.

"I will accept the contract offered to Mr. Bourey as I believe it more closely reflects the market due to the size and complexity of the organization and community," Oliver wrote, although he stated that a provision for airfare to and from Greenville, S.C., where Bourey is based, could be eliminated.

Commissioner Mike Byerly said the executive search process has not gone as expected. He said he would prefer to hire Deputy County Manager Betty Baker as interim county manager to get the county through the budgeting process over the next few months and then return to this issue.

The commission could make a fresh start, whether that involved reconsidering its current candidates or starting over with a brand-new search.

He said commissioners have learned a few things from this process so far and he thinks establishing a contract up front, as Commissioner Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson recommended early on, would be a good move.

If it were to start over, he said, the commission could nail down a contract before candidates apply and define narrower parameters within which it would be willing to negotiate so prospective applicants would have a better idea of what to expect from the get-go.

Byerly said his goal is to reach a unanimous decision when hiring a county manager. Oliver expressed a similar sentiment in his email.

"It is essential to me that the Board reaches a significant if not unanimous consensus on their choice of me to lead the County forward," he wrote. "This demonstrates your support for me as your new Manager and is critical in meeting the challenges ahead."

Commissioner Lee Pinkoson said establishing a contract earlier could have helped, although applicants could have easily done their homework to find out what Acting County Manager Rick Drummond makes or learn about the contract former County Manager Randall Reid had.

Defining a contract early on could have nixed possible expectations among candidates that the commission would be willing to provide a much higher offer than those, Pinkoson said. Had the commission done that, Bourey might not have applied knowing commissioners wouldn't rise as far as he wanted them to in terms of certain contract provisions.

Pinkoson also said the commission's public discussions of contract issues has made the negotiations harder since its debate must occur in the sunshine. These are conversations that are easier to have behind closed doors, not because commissioners have anything to hide, he said, but because they can't hold the cards close to their chests with candidates in this situation the way a private company could.

"The difficult aspect of this is that it is so, so open, which makes it definitely more challenging," he said.

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

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