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More detail on the city administrator issue (Update 10 a.m. Feb. 10)Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011, at 10:07 AM
In response to our story about the Marshall City Council offering Connie Latimer a new contract and the news that she worked in 2010 without pay, one of the first comments on our website was from oceanlord49, posted Tuesday, Feb. 8:
"(W)hat are the reasons as to why a salary not given? (If she loves Marshall as she states, why not another year for free?) There certainly is a back story to this that should see the light of day."
I can't claim to know everything that's gone on behind the scenes, but here's what I learned during the post-council-meeting news conference:
Regarding qualifications, Connie Latimer's response is similar to the response she gave when she was appointed to the post last year. She was an active mayor -- practically full time -- for seven years. She worked closely with former City Administrator Charles Tryban and gained enough practical experience and knowledge about Marshall city government to compensate for lack of formal management education.
She has noted in the past that during her tenure as mayor she played a hands-on role in bringing funding to the city for several big infrastructure projects, notably the airport improvements, Eastwood bridge replacement and two intersection improvements on U.S. 65. She reports having good rapport with state officials and has experience applying for funding that has proven beneficial to the city.
Regarding the salary level, at $67,500 it's higher than what the council was willing to pay her last year ($62K) but lower than many other cities comparable in size to Marshall pay their city administrators, she said, noting that the low end of the pay range was about $72K. We did not get a list of the cities used for comparison purposes, but we'll inquire.
Regarding why she kept quiet about her decision to work without pay, she said a) she didn't think anyone really needed to know and b) no one asked. She suggested she didn't want to call more attention to the situation because it would have been a distraction.
Regarding the suggestion she go another year without pay, she said if she had it to do over again, she would again give the city a year of work, but she added that doing so was a big financial burden for her family and she couldn't manage to do it twice. She said she will definitely sign the contract approved by the council Monday.
I realize the timing of her original appointment made quite a few people suspicious about her motives and the city council's judgment. The city council is responsible for selecting a city administrator, and its members seem satisfied that there was no ethical violation in the move last year or in Latimer's decision to work without pay. The council has now voted twice to award Latimer contracts, indicating confidence in both the legality of the move and in her ability to do the job.
It's clear from our online discussions, however, that while some people strongly support the council's decision in this case, others are still not satisfied with the way events unfolded and still have questions about why things happened the way they did. We plan to follow up with city officials and will attempt to fill in some of the blanks.
As with all decisions made by our representatives, the wisdom of their actions in this case is open to debate and there's likely to be a good deal of spirited discussion representing a variety of perspectives.
That's what living in an open society is all about!
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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.
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