The search for a new City of Verona administrator is taking longer than expected.
As a result, the Common Council voted Monday to extend the contract of interim city administrator Adam Sayre by four months.
Sayre, the city’s planning and development director since 2013, will get a $4,719 annual raise above the $115,000 per year he had been making since taking over in February. He has not confirmed whether he applied for the permanent position as the city’s top bureaucrat, but he was not among the three finalists named in May.
In May, after Brian Wilson, Aaron Reeves and Dan Wietecha each went through separate interviews with elected officials and department heads, the city began an intensive background check on the candidate the council chose. Monday, the council got an update on the process in a closed session and was informed the full report would be available at the council’s next meeting, Aug. 12.
Mayor Luke Diaz would not say whether that report was the council’s first choice or if it had gone through multiple checks, but he said only one is being investigated now. He told the Press he feels good about the process despite how long it’s taking.
“We’re not going to hire someone just to hire someone,” he said. “We’ve had turnover. We can’t have a bad hire at this point.”
Diaz said Sayre’s performance in his dual role has made that easier.
“Thank you to Mr. Sayre for taking on double duty and sometimes even triple duty,” he said before the vote on Sayre’s agreement, which carries through Nov. 30. “You’re doing a great job for the city.”
The administrator functions to some degree as the chief executive officer of the city in Verona’s moderately weak mayoral form of government. It is the liaison between the council and the rest of the staff, though it also takes some direction from the mayor.
The city’s previous administrator, Jeff Mikorski, took a six-month severance agreement Feb. 5, three weeks after the council met in closed session to discuss his performance. His severance included a change in title and position that essentially relegated him to answering questions as requested.
Mikorski is being paid his $137,111 salary through July 31. He was hired in the second round of a process that lasted four months in 2016, something current alders had complained was too long. The current search has gone well past the five-month mark, and if alders do not like what they hear Aug. 12, it could very well extend into October or even November.
The city has continued to take applications past its initial submission deadline of April 7, and if it does not choose the candidate being investigated, it could gather another group of finalists that could include more recent applicants. But it would need to gather alders, the applicants and department heads on the same days for in-person interviews – if the applicants remain interested months later – then meet again to choose and complete another background check.
In the current round, the council held interviews April 29 and May 3 to narrow the semifinalists from six to three, then interviewed the candidates again May 20 and decided whom to select after a May 28 closed session.
Diaz told the Press the Oregon Police Department is handling the background check to avoid conflicts of interest. He added that getting information from prior employers has complicated and lengthened the check.
The overall process is being handled by the city’s human resources coordinator, Mitchell Weckerly, whose hiring last summer was the first dedicated HR position in the city’s history.