No Real Public Input on Hiring New City Manager

RECEIVED Sat., Oct. 6, 2007

Dear Editor,
    In last week’s story on the city-manager hire [“Point Austin,” News, Oct. 5], Michael King wrote, "members are hoping that the official and public process parallels" that of the police-chief selection.
    Who’s kidding whom here?
    In the Aug. 23 daily, the mayor very clearly established we wouldn’t be involved even to the low-level, symbolic degree we were with the chief’s hire, saying, "The public role will be diminished in this process."
    The single planned public hearing took place Aug. 23 (a whopping five people weighed in). No meeting with candidates is planned, no “citizens advisory panel” is forming, no process considered for public input on a draft profile, and council isn’t soliciting our input on needed structural changes for that office.
    Council Member Mike Martinez recently claimed that because an elected body makes the hire, that’s as good as public input. That, of course, assumes council truly is representative.
    He also mentioned their “taking ownership” of the process. How about taking ownership of the lack of accountability with the current manager? The public has been calling for a variety of investigations. Start by cleaning up the mess, and work to change the dynamics such that the new hire has opportunity to build trust.
    If council considers Toby Futrell above scrutiny, how can the public trust them to make the right choice in her replacement?
    King also reported, "Futrell is now working amicably with the council on the search process." Whoa, Nelly! She’s helping her “boss” replace herself? The fact that this isn’t raising red flags typifies how she’s not just managed city business but her power to fool Austin into believing she’s the boss of the council.
    Council should replace her ASAP with an interim to create the space to deal with the liability so as not to pass it on to the new hire, and it is imperative the public watchdog the selection process to ensure we don’t continue “Futrell’s reign of terror.”
Debbie Russell
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