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Our Opinion: City neither frugal nor transparent

Jefferson City’s method of selecting a new city administrator was neither frugal nor transparent.

Let us be clear. Our criticism has nothing to do with the new hire, Steve Crowell; it has everything to do with the hiring process by an appointed selection committee and the City Council.

The city offered a salary and benefits package that extends beyond generous to exorbitant.

The new administrator’s starting salary will be $152,000 annually.

Although that may be within — actually, near the top — of the approved range, it exceeds the $122,000 annual salary of Crowell’s predecessor, Nathan Nickolaus, as well as the $133,820 base salary Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon earned in 2013.

In addition, Crowell’s annual benefits include a: $10,650 retirement package on top of LAGERS; $7,200 vehicle allowance; $900 cellphone allowance; and moving expenses up to $22,500.

These numbers would be lavish even if the city were riding the crest of a revenue wave, which it is not. The city is coming off a budget shortfall and continues to operate without a finance director.

In addition, a pay raise for rank-and-file workers was rejected last year. What message does the bountiful salary and benefit packages for a new boss send to city employees?

We also are troubled by an opaque process that became public only when the selection was finalized.

Compare the city’s method to the inclusive, public process used last year by Lincoln University to select its new president, Kevin Rome.

Rome was one of three finalists invited to Jefferson City to meet with community members at a public forum. The finalists shared their background, experience and vision for the leadership role in the community before the selection was made.

Ward 3 Councilman and selection committee chairman Bob Scrivner said a similar method for city administrator was not used because one of the finalists was concerned about confidentially.

But it is the responsibility of the employer, not the applicants, to set the hiring guidelines. If an applicant is uncomfortable with the process, withdrawal is an option.

“I feel the community did speak through their representatives,” Scrivner said.

Nonsense. The selection committee was appointed by Mayor Eric Streumph, not the community. And elected council members cannot routinely meet in private under the theory they are speaking for the community. That’s not how representative government works.

Jefferson City bungled this process. And that’s a shame, because the city administrator’s job is tough enough without such an inept introduction.

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