by JULIE B. MAGLIO and SUMMER HAMPTON
During the Aug. 10 Special Meeting of the Brooksville City Council, council members voted 3-1 to approve the search and hiring process of the ‘best possible candidate’ for city manager. Mayor Brayton had suggested during that meeting that they skip the search process and directly negotiate a contract with acting city manager Ron Snowberger, however, the suggestion did not garner support. On Sept. 20, after 12 possible candidate resumes were provided to councilmembers to review (Snowberger being one of them), the council decided to negotiate a contract with Ron Snowberger for the city manager position.
The Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, regular city council meeting agenda included a discussion of the city manager interview process and review of the city manager contract.
Prior to the meeting, council members were provided a list of 12 candidates (out of the 32 applicants) who meet the approved minimum requirements for the city manager position. The 12 are as follows in alphabetical order:
Snowberger, Ronald (interim city manager)
Of the above candidates, five were then selected to move forward in the interview process based on qualifications and experiences. They are as listed below in alphabetical order:
Mayor Pat Brayton clarified that those five candidates were selected from the input provided by the five council members.
Vice mayor Battista made a motion to formally accept the five candidates and continue with the interview process. The motion died as there was no second.
Councilmember Bell then made a motion to name Ron Snowberger as city manager with a contract that would run through Jan 2023 and amend the city manager’s contract to remove the portion of the contract that requires the manager to live within the city of Brooksville. A second was provided by council member Bailey.
However, Brayton and Battista felt that the motion needed to be amended to provide for an annual contract. “If you don’t amend it, it’s not going to fly,” said Brayton.
Bell withdrew the motion and Bailey withdrew his second on the original motion.
The new motion from Bell was to negotiate a contract with acting city manager Ron Snowberger for a one-year contract to act as the city manager.
Councilmember Erhard stated, “I am a little perturbed by all of this because you took all this time to have us review all these applications, post the job…” She said that if council members are required to live in the city, the city manager should be required to as well.
Vice mayor Battista clarified that under the current motion, the contract would be for one year and renegotiations would need to occur after one year; as opposed to having a standing contract.
Battista and Erhard remarked the last city manager contract and city manager performance were reviewed annually, but there was no termination date on the contract.
So Bell again withdrew the motion. Bailey withdrew his second.
“The motion is to negotiate with Ron Snowberger the acting city manager, on a contract to be the city manager without provision of living in the city of Brooksville.”
Bailey seconded the motion and the council approved 3-2 in a roll call vote. Battista and Erhard voted in opposition.
Vice mayor Battista then said that since they approved to negotiate a contract with Snowberger, that the council should stand united and be unanimous in their decision for city manager. Battista made a formal motion to make it a unanimous vote to award the contract to the selected city manager candidate.
“I would move that the council use a unanimous vote to award the contract to Mr. Snowberger.”
Bell seconded the motion.
A citizen commented on the switch from ‘negotiating a contract’ to ‘awarding a contract’ to Mr. Snowberger.
Brayton asked the city attorney if they could amend the original motion to include the word negotiate.
There were comments from two individuals present that he did use the term negotiate.
“I stand corrected again,” said Brayton.
(The Hernando Sun in listening to Battista’s motion via video several times did not hear Battista say the term negotiate.)
He recapped, “We have a motion and a second for the council to show our support for the selected candidate to be the new city manager with a unanimous vote.”
Josh Hofstede, a city resident, came forward to comment. “You already have the agreement to negotiate the contract, but the second one (motion) you’re trying to do is give him the award of the contract… you don’t need to vote at all now- until you’ve negotiated and made a contract – then you come back and say we gonna hire him.”
Brayton said, “We have a motion on the floor to show unanimous support for the motion to negotiate a contract with Mr. Snowberger. That’s what the current motion is.”
Hofstede stated, “Mr. Battista used the word award the contract (in his motion) that’s all I’m trying to clarify. That was his words.”
Battista stated, “Withdraw the word award.”
Brayton restated the motion, “We’re going to show unanimous support in our decision to negotiate a contract with Mr. Snowberger.”
Via a roll call vote, the motion was not approved unanimously, but it was approved 4-1, with Erhard voting in opposition.
Ron Snowberger acting city manager made a statement, “Thank you council for putting faith in me and I look forward to negotiating a contract that will be equitable for the city and look forward to continuing to do the job. There’s a lot of good things happening in Brooksville and I certainly appreciate the faith that you’ve put in me to do this job. At the same time, I want to thank the staff throughout the city for supporting me throughout this transition and I have high hopes we can come to an agreement on a contract.”
HR Director Kimberly Price said that city morale has improved since Ron Snowberger has been acting city manager.