The unanimously approved a contract between the city and Bob Thistle, doing business as Thistle Advisory and Consulting Services [TACA], allowing him to become the interim city administrator on Monday night. His tentative start date is July 2.
City Attorney Mike Couri put together a contract and highlighted concerns, costs and specifics for the council at Monday night's meeting. Thistle is expected to work 20-40 hours a week, and when he is not in the office he is expected to be "reasonably available" via phone or email.
TACA will be paid $55 an hour on a monthly basis. Couri did point out in memo that the city will be paying TACA at an annual rate of $110,000 which is slightly higher than former city administrator Larry Kruse's pay. Because the city is still paying Kruse his severance, these payments will be over and above the budgeted amount for this position.
Monthly payments will fluctuate between $9,150 and $5,500 a month because Thistle's hours will vary.
The council discussion, led by Mayor Mark Meehan, quickly moved into long-term plans and the possibility of having Thistle train current city engineer Adam Nafstad as a permanent city administrator.
"I'm not sold," Dan Wagner said. Larry Sorenson quickly followed up in agreement, "I personally need to look at other candidates before hiring Adam [Nafstad]. I admire Adam [Nafstad], but I want to be thorough."
"Don't waste city money because of a personal vendetta," Meehan said, visibly frustrated towards Sorenson's reference to the city having to spend additional money if they use a search firm to bring in other candidates.
"I'm sorry, but this is too important of a decision," Sorenson said.
While Sorensen and Wagner were united on the opposing side, Meehan did have a majority, with John Vetsch and Jillian Hendrickson both supporting Nafstad as a permanent hire. Leegally, the council could have voted 3-2 and approve the transition for Nafstad to move from city engineer into a dual role including city administrator, but Couri strongly discouraged it.
"I suggest a unanimous vote. It wouldn't be a good situation for the incumbent," he told council.
The council finished the regular council meeting and resumed discussions in a workshop in which Couri got frank with the group after emotions began to run high.
"The decision has been made, what happened in April is over and done. It's now a political issue that will be played out at the ballot box," he said. "The five council members have to all have a say and be on the same page, because without that the new person will be set to fail."
As the council moves forward, they will go over cafeteria style plans from the search firms. Once selected, the plan is to have the consultant come in and help the council identify what qualities and characteristics they are looking for. At that time, they will decide whether an internal candidate fulfills that or if outside candidates need to be brought in.