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City manager search continues
City asks for more candidates for city manager
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The city of Covington has requested for additional candidates to consider for the position of city manager as the search for the position continues. It’s a decision some council members are disappointed about, after a motion on approving finalist Craig Treadwell for the position failed.

The council entered into executive session after its regularly scheduled Feb. 4 meeting on Monday night and then opened the meeting back to the public, where a 4 to 2 vote was taken to ask for more candidates from The Mercer Group, a search firm hired by the city to handle the search process for city manager.

Council member Chris Smith first made a motion to approve Treadwell as the next city manager for the city; that motion was seconded by councilman Keith Dalton. However, council members Mike Whatley, Janet Goodman, Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams all voted against the motion and the motion failed.

Whatley then made a motion to the council to go back to The Mercer Group and request that the firm submit another group of candidates to choose from that had the credentials the council required in its next city manager. That motion passed with Whatley, Goodman, Franklin and Williams voting in favor; and Smith and Dalton voting not in favor.

As the open meeting adjourned, a citizen who stuck around for a decision said “what a disgrace.” Smith left the meeting and said he was “very disappointed.”

Williams, Franklin and Goodman all said they were very satisfied with the decision.

“We have to be comfortable with what goes on,” Williams said.

Whatley expressed that he had nothing against Treadwell, and said in his opinion, he didn’t think the final three candidates--Treadwell, Leigh Knight or Oel Wingo-- met the qualifications.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston also expressed his disappointment in the decision that was made by the council.

“I’m very disappointed,” Johnston said. “ I think as of right now, the city has lost.”

Johnston said he wasn't sure of the next steps that would take place in choosing more candidates for review and that he would have to consult with The Mercer Group to find out. It's not clear if the process will start from the beginning, or if more candidates will be selected from individuals who have already applied for the city manager position. Johnston said the contract with The Mercer Group stated there would be no additional charge to the city, if a city manager wasn't selected.

The Mercer Group selected 20 candidates from the 98 that applied for city manager, which were all presented to the council. Johnston said the 98 candidates did not include six of the internal candidates that also applied for the position, and said a total of 104 individuals applied.

Out of the 20 applicants, the council narrowed the selection down to four candidates and also considered six internal candidates. However, Johnston said two of the candidates from The Mercer Group's Group no longer wanted to be considered, and that left a total of eight candidates.

The council then narrowed down its selection to the top three candidates -- Treadwell, Knight and Wingo. The vote was 3 to 3 on the finalists, with council members Smith, Dalton and Whatley voting for the list of the top three finalists; and Franklin, Goodman and Williams voting against the selection, forcing Mayor Ronnie Johnston to cast a tie-breaking vote approving the finalists. 

"Conflict of interest" concerns with the two internal candidates -- Knight and Treadwell-- have caused some division between the council.

Knight’s daughter is good friends with Smith’s daughter and the two families have gone on two trips together; and Treadwell and Dalton jointly own a real estate business, Hat Creek Properties.

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