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Ashland mayor pulls back notice of veto

Andy Atkinson / Daily TidingsAshland City Hall.
Interim city manager contract expires Sept. 1

Ashland Mayor Julie Akins pulled back a notice of veto on Monday — pending legal guidance — regarding a resolution to delay the process of hiring of a city manager, which Ashland City Council approved May 13 after a second recruiting firm withdrew from its contract with the city.

“Seeing that we had not one, but two recruitment firms choose not to work with Ashland was very sobering,” Councilor Paula Hyatt said at the May 13 special meeting, moving to suspend recruitment until after Aug. 1 to allow time to look closely at how the city conducts business.

“I feel, in light of those circumstances, we need to look internally, examine our interactions with contractors, staff, and find constructive ways to meet the goal. The goal here is a successful city manager recruitment.”

Hyatt said the latest firm to back out, Wendi Brown Creative Partners, indicated their ethics were impugned and staff members felt poorly treated by the city. Hyatt called for the review to avoid repeating mistakes with a third company.

Councilor Shaun Moran cast the single nay vote, questioning how a damaged reputation could be repaired by pushing the timeline. Moran said councilors may not always agree, but nonetheless have a responsibility to appropriately respond to the will of Ashland voters.

In May 2020, voters approved the creation of a city manager position to supplant the post of city administrator.

In support of the resolution to delay, Councilor Tonya Graham said the city and its council must command trust and confidence to attract candidates who will stick with the city long term.

Akins said she initiated the veto on the resolution to pause city manager recruitment primarily because the City Council is tasked with hiring a manager to fulfill duties that voters approved last year, and “a failure to enact the will of the people in a timely manner may be considered a dereliction of responsibility.”

If legal counsel determines the veto can go forward, it would undergo review by the city recorder before being placed on the schedule for deliberation at a future council business meeting. Akins filed the notice within a five-day time frame as required under the city charter, but retracted pending legal review.

According to the charter, the mayor may file notice of veto for any ordinance or resolution within five days of passage. After reviewing the mayor’s reasons for disapproval, the ordinance or resolution may be passed again by two-thirds of the council.

Akins said because the interim city manager contract expires Sept. 1, failure to continue the search at a reasonable pace could leave Ashland in a vulnerable state, without top administrative leadership.

Delaying the search may impede a fair and competitive search as outlined in the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals, and resources have already been spent creating materials related to the search that would benefit from continuity, she said.

“This resolution does not appear to have a strong basis,” Akins wrote in her objections to the resolution. “Identifying a method for hiring which is agreeable to council and staff requires deliberation. This delay prevents such deliberation and consideration, thereby making the search process more difficult and less timely.”

Addressing concerns about Ashland’s reputation, Akins said a delay would “appear specious” when disagreements about hiring decisions are common, adding that Peckham & McKenney recruiters — the first to withdraw — noted “councils with unanimous votes might be more concerning.”

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.