The West Liberty City Council announced who they offered the city manager position to at the city council meeting Tuesday, March 21. They also clarified the ordinance regarding the qualifications an applicant needed to be the city manager.
“It is still being finalized but the (city) council has decided that they want to offer this position to City Clerk Lee Geertz and it was a unanimous decision,” Mayor Ethan Anderson said. “Definitely, a lot of discussion was had. It was not reached easily but that was a unanimous decision and that’s always good to hear.”
There has been a lot of communication from the public on this topic, Anderson added.
“It’s interesting being behind this table because you hear from everyone on all sides of these things so that is really good,” he added.
The city council and mayor wanted to clarify ordinance 1-8A-4.
“This ordinance was that the requirements were either a bachelor’s degree and three years experience or alternatively eight years of practical experience,” Anderson said. “It was written in an ambiguous way in the code and so our legal counsel recommend that we do clarify that.”
After the word whereas in the ordinance there is a semicolon and the word OR is capitalized, he said. This clarified how the city council was reading this part of the ordinance.
There were three applicants for the city manager position, Anderson said. One applicant didn’t have the bachelor’s degree or the experience. Another applicant had the experience wanted for the position and the third applicant had the experience and a bachelor’s degree.
“It’s good for council to clarify this not only for this time around but as the city moves forward,” he added.
He asked the city council for the motion to approve the resolution to clarify the ordinance. City councilmember Cara McFerren made the motion. City councilmember Omar Martinez second it.
Anderson asked if there was any further discussion about this.
City councilmember Ashley Smith said she wanted it to be recorded that she wanted to see an external search process.
“Not because I think that Lee is not a good candidate but because I was worried about public feeling like this wasn’t transparent,” Smith said.
Smith told the city council members she felt like an external search was needed in order to gain the public’s trust.
“But in order to have a consensus and move forward the rest of council didn’t feel that way and that’s OK,” Smith said.
She felt like there were people who felt like the city council was changing the words of the ordinance, she said. This was not happening. The word or was just being capitalized to make it clearer.
“I guess my question is when was the last time this was updated and was anybody here on the council then?” Smith asked. “Do we know that was the original intent of this?”
Geertz told Anderson the last time the council reviewed the ordinance was Dec. 1, 2020. The city council during that time period wanted to remove job description terminology from the ordinances.
“Really, the job description is in line with the code but is based on perception,” Geertz said. “The purpose of your resolution is just to make sure we have clarified what the perception is to be.”
This was correct, Anderson said. A company has been contracted to review all the codes the city has even the ones the city council hasn’t looked at yet so city administration can compare them and modernize them. One of the recommendations was to remove specifics from the code so they could put it in the job description to make it more flexible.
Councilmember Dana Dominguez said she wanted to thank Attorney Bill Tharp for binging this to her attention the issue with this ordinance.
“I know he’s been very vocal about many things in the past couple of years but he did take the time to write the council to discuss how important it was that our wording was right,” she said. “He expressed not wanting to waste taxpayer dollars so I think the investment of having our city attorney’s look at it once again – it was worth it this time.”
She said the decision to offer Geertz the city manager position was one of the hardest decisions she ever made. Geertz has proven to them she does have what it takes to be a good city manager.
After Dominguez was done speaking, Anderson called for a vote on this resolution clarifying what experience a person hired for the city manager would need. The resolution passed unanimously.
“I’m sure there are still many people who have things to say about this entire process, still in process,” Anderson said. “But I would encourage you to continue to reach out to council with your thoughts about all these things. It’s important to have open lines of communication.”