Lindsay appoints new clerk after prolonged discussion
Jack Urquhart was appointed city clerk in a 3-2 decision from the council relieving finance director Bret Harmon from the role as he become interim city manager
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
LINDSAY – The Lindsay City Council has managed to pave the way for current finance director Bret Harmon to shed his role of city clerk as he dons the responsibilities of interim city manager next month. But it didn’t come without some contentious back and forth between councilmembers and staff.
During their July 23 meeting the council was forced to table the decision to appoint deputy city clerk Jack Urquhart to the city clerk position. Without councilman Brian Watson at the meeting the vote was headed for a 2-2 tie, and no resolution. Councilwoman Yolanda Flores said she was not sure that they gave longer tenured employees an opportunity to apply for the job. She mentioned as well how weary she is about the community’s perception of the City hiring outside of the community.
“I struggle with the perception of the hiring procedures we had in place and that’s what’s giving me pause in doing this…when we are perceived as giving more of an entitlement to other people and to others we are not giving them that opportunity,” Flores said to city manager Bill Zigler.
She carried her concerns to last week’s Aug. 14 meeting where she expressed her concerns in even stronger terms during council reports at the beginning of the meeting.
“It is very obvious and evident in this administration that we are not following proper hiring protocols. And one of the questions that I had – was that why we didn’t have the H-R manager doing the hiring and recruiting. That is usually their jobs not the finance director and city manager,” Flores said.
She was challenged whether this was a report and Watson brought up that if this is a human resources matter then it is supposed to be private. Flores said that she is questioning policy not specific people and then referenced a conversation she had with Harmon.
“It actually brought to mind a conversation that I had with you, Bret, where you actually admitted that you actually pursued those connections in order to hire Jack,” Flores said.
“You are going to get us sued,” Watson spoke out.
Flores responded to Watson saying that she is looking out for the City’s best interest.
“That indicates a discriminatory process that we cannot tolerate and if it continues it may incite discriminatory lawsuits against our City,” Flores said. “It is not right what is happening and what has happened all these years and it continues to this day.”
“Yeah, it just seems that in a private situation it would be a whole lot better,” Watson said.
Harmon says that Urquhart has been a talent for the City since he arrived as deputy city clerk more than two months ago.
“Jack Urquhart is a perfect fit for the position…Three things I appreciate most about him is his willingness to take on any project, his communication skills and his technical skills. He also speaks Spanish,” Harmon said in an email with the Sun-Gazette.
The Lindsay finance director added that Urquhart worked for a city in Washington while he earned his Masters in Public Administration degree. His bachelors degree is in communications, and worked as a news reporter before entering grad school. Despite his resume, Flores said that he did not have enough experience. Vice mayor Laura Cortes added that Urquhart does have his MPA. Flores rebut by saying that there are other people who do have master degrees who were not asked to apply.
“It’s my concern that we have a lot of people in this area who do have masters degrees and they did not have the opportunity to apply for this position. That is my concern and it is a concern I’m going to have until we have a policy in how to recruit people,” Flores said.
Mayor Pam Kimball joined in on the discussion to say that they already have Urquhart in the building and therefore it would be cost effective to appoint him than to seek out another candidate. After overlapping debate, Cortes motioned to appoint Urquhart, Watson seconded. The vote was 3-2 with councilwoman Rosaena Sanchez and Flores voting in dissent.