Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

August 20, 2013

Manager search — take two

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — With little explanation as to why, the Crossville City Council shifted gears and agreed to offer a different candidate the job of new city manager, formally approving a smaller salary offer to the new candidate, current McMinnville City Manager David Rutherford.

It appears previous city manager appointee Jeffery Skidmore of Crossville is out.

When the matter of the city manager position came up during Friday afternoon's special-called city council meeting, Councilman George Marlow immediately moved to hire his son in law, Aaron Elmore, as city manager at a salary of $74,000. Marlow's motion died for lack of a second.

Councilman Pete Souza addressed briefly the issue of how the council voted to appoint Jeffery Skidmore on July 25, saying he felt it was because there was little discussion before the ballots were taken at the council's previous attempt at picking a new manager. Souza said he felt the process taken that night was flawed and the council was too careful over previous allegations of Sunshine Law violations and did not listen to each other, instead moving directly to the voting process.

Souza explained that he previously voted trying to anticipate how the other councilmen would vote, “But tonight I want to listen to what everybody has to say before I vote.”

Souza went on to say that he would rather that the council approve the offer to whoever is chosen themselves, rather than have Mayor J.H. Graham III negotiate with the candidate as has previously been the practice.

Souza outlined who he was looking for in a city manager. He said he was looking “somebody with enough moral fortitude to back off any councilman who directs him to do anything inappropriately instead of collectively as a council.” Souza went on to say that he felt all six candidates met that criteria.

Souza also said he is looking for “someone with the skill to deal with the council and the public and the employees in the manner of respect that all the citizens and employees of the city deserve.”

Council members agreed to choose a candidate and then make an offer to the candidate for his consideration but little other discussion by other council members followed Souza's suggestions.

Paper ballots again were used to take the vote and city attorney Ken Chadwell read the ballots after taking them up. After the ballot was read, Chadwell asked each council member to confirm his vote.

Rutherford received three votes, one each from Councilmen Souza, Danny Wyatt and Jesse Kerley. Graham cast his vote for Jeffery Skidmore and Marlow voted for Elmore. Rutherford was selected after just one ballot and the council began to discuss a salary offer.

Souza said he would like to see a six-month severance package included in the offer. He said if the manager resigns, he would not receive the severance pay. Discussion of firing for cause versus firing without cause lead to a decision that if the council were to fire for no specific reason, other than wanting a change, the manager would receive the severance pay.

Wyatt suggested a starting pay of $90,000 while Kerley said he would rather start him at $85,000 and then, after six months, give him a five percent raise, but possibly more, depending on how well he does. Kerley added, “We'll discuss it and pay him what he's worth.”

Souza agreed, saying he could go along with the $85,000 salary with a six-month raise, adding that Rutherford had a lot of experience and a lot of education. In addition to a master's degree in environmental health, Rutherford has a law degree and is a licensed attorney. Rutherford is currently making more than $100,000 annually as city manager of McMinnville, according to Souza after the meeting.

Council unanimously approved offering David Rutherford an annual salary of $85,000, to start, use of a city-owned vehicle, raise after six months of at least five percent and a six-month severance package to become Crossville's new city manager. Because Graham is going on vacation, the offer will be presented to Rutherford by Mayor pro-tem Wyatt.

Should the offer be accepted, Rutherford would be the new city manager without further action by the council. It is also possible further negotiations could be needed or another candidate chosen. Either action would require another council meeting.

The council also met as the solicitation board Friday afternoon and approved a solicitation permit for the Cumberland County United Fund. The application indicates the goal of the 2013 campaign is to collect $365,000 in donations while the United Fund will provide allocations to agencies of $281,975. Operational expenses for United fund are listed as $47,701 for a total of $329,676. There was no indication of how the additional $35,423 in donations sought would be used.