ELLSWORTH — Negotiations to hire Interim City Manager Glenn Moshier in a dual role combining the police chief and city manager positions is moving forward, City Council Chairman Dale Hamilton said on Dec. 29.
“We’re still negotiating, there’s no final decision on how the position will be structured,” Hamilton said, noting there wasn’t “much in the way of new information.”
The new ad hoc group Citizens Acting for a Responsible Ellsworth would still like to hear more, calling for more transparency.
“The complaint is strictly over the process,” said group member Jon Stein, co-owner of Fogtown Brewing Co. and vice president of Heart of Ellsworth’s board of directors. “I think as a city manager [Moshier] would have great communication and move the city in the right direction.” But, he added, Moshier’s qualifications don’t necessarily match those of a city manager and the council “sidestepped” the application process when it turned to Moshier to fill the position.
The ad hoc citizens group submitted a letter to the council and local media asking that the search be reopened and the process kept transparent. It also requests that any offer to Moshier be rescinded and his interim city manager role extended. Lastly, the group is asking for a guarantee that the city manager and police chief positions be filled by separate individuals. The group has held two recent meetings, with 11 to 12 members attending, Stein said, and started a Facebook page.
“The council will certainly take all this feedback into consideration as we move forward,” Hamilton said.
Moshier, Ellsworth’s police chief, was named interim city manager in September after the retirement of former city manager David Cole. The city then hired consultant Don Gerrish of Eaton Peabody to handle the search process. An Oct. 21 public forum about the search for a new city manager drew few citizens and no emailed public comments, Hamilton pointed out.
At the forum, Gerrish said, “We will be making the announcement of who the finalists are so the public will have an opportunity to know who they are and to maybe talk with councilors if you have any input into the finalists.”
Hamilton said that the search-and-hire process was outlined by Councilor Heather Grindle, with public copies made available, and the plan did not include a public meeting with final candidates.
“The public input phase is the one [that is] important to collect feedback from the public,” he noted.
The hiring search netted 18 applicants. Five were selected for interviews but two of them pulled out, leaving three candidates from which a final candidate was selected. That final candidate then withdrew during negotiations.
The council then turned to Moshier in lieu of reopening the search, noting information from Gerrish that multiple city and town manager positions were vacant across the state.
“It’s part of the process,” Hamilton said.
Negotiations are expected to continue during a Jan. 7 special council meeting in an executive session closed to the public, as allowed for personnel discussions under Maine law. The council’s monthly Jan. 11 meeting “will be the first opportunity” for the council to vote on a contract, Hamilton said.