Tom Suffredin.

Evanston aldermen Monday agreed to schedule a public forum for residents to meet the finalists to be the city’s next manager, but opted to keep the rest of the search confidential.

Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, asked whether communications between the consulting firm hired by the city, GovHR USA, and would-be candidates would be subject to disclosure under the state Freedom of Information Act.

Deputy City Attorney Nicholas Cummings said that since the HR firm is not considered an agent of the city, the names would not be subject to disclosure under FOIA.

Jennifer Lin.

Jennifer Lin, the city’s human resources director, said she feared that publicly releasing information about the identities of candidates would dramatically shrink the pool of applicants.

Some states, including Florida, require public disclosure of all applications for most high-level government jobs, but Illinois does not have such a requirement.

Heidi Voorhees.

Heidi Voorhees, president of GovHR USA, suggested it would be OK to have as many as thee finalists identified, but if more — even say five to seven semi-finalists — were to be disclosed, some candidates “may not be willing to put their current jobs at risk” estimating what the odds are that they would be selected for the open position.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said he was OK with having only the finalists identified. “Until you get to the finalists spot, there is no reason to release names,” he said. If any residents want to know the perhaps 250 resumes coming in, he added, “that’s a waste of time.”

Voorhees said the job search now may be more difficult than it would have been several years ago. “It’s a full employment economy now, and the boomer generation is retiring — and the next age cohort is about a third smaller,” she said. “So it’s not unusual now for communities to struggle to fill their top job.”

The schedule for the search outlined in a memo from GovHR to the Council calls for the consultants to meet with city staff, officials and the public the week of March 9 to gather input on expectations for the city manager position and to conduct a survey.

The consultants would draft a recruitment position announcement by March 18 and a recruitment brochure by March 20.

The deadline for candidates to submit their applications would be May 1 and the consultants would meet with the mayor and aldermen to review candidates during the week of May 22.

Private interviews, likely of five to seven top candidates, would start in early June.

With the pool reduced, likely to three candidates, a second round of meetings then would be conducted with the mayor and aldermen and a public forum for the finalists would be held before the mayor and aldermen make their final selection of the new manager.

Evanston’s last city manager, Wally Bobkiewicz, left to become city administrator of Issaquah, Washington, in September.

The process of selecting his replacement stalled out for a few months with aldermen disagree over which consulting firm to hire to conduct the search.

Related stories

Let the people meet the manager finalists (2/3/20)

Manager search stalls over executive session issue (1/28/20)

Aldermen to select city manager search firm (9/23/19)

Storlie expected to be interim city manager (9/4/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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