Coral Gables

Coral Gables hires local executive for city manager’s search

The Coral Gables City Commission has hired a local search firm executive to quickly find candidates for its still vacant city manager’s position.

Friday’s action comes after the city pushed aside its newly appointed manager Tuesday when details about his background surfaced in a last-minute Florida Department of Law Enforcement check, troubling commissioners.

Bud Park — who has overseen a well-known firm in the community for two decades — agreed to accept

$25,000 for a 60-day search. He is to bring at least three candidates and if one gets placed, he will get an additional $10,000.

Park said he plans to begin working as early as Saturday on pulling together a list of potential candidates. Names will come from city officials, members of the citizens advisory board and contacts from his own network.

Meanwhile, Coral Gables decided to distance itself from its original hire, Jim Beard, 50, of Atlanta, after records checks raised serious issues about his personal and business background.

The city’s original search firm, Colin Baenziger & Associates, presented five finalists, including Beard, to the city to replace Pat Salerno, who resigned in April after five years on the job.

City officials paid Baenziger $33,000, but later criticized its background checks on Beard.

In a Sept. 22 email to city attorney Craig Leen, Baenziger — a day before Beard was to be officially appointed — admitted that the firm forgot to ask applicants to disclose past lawsuits.

“I did not ask specifically. That got overlooked in all the back and forth,” Baenziger said. “I apologize.”

As routine, the city conducted an in-depth, Level 2 FDLE background check, which included fingerprints — the last steps to making the position official.

Leen would not comment on the FDLE findings on Beard but said it was enough to reopen the search.

It was discovered that Beard had — among other issues — a 2004 bankruptcy filing, three suspended driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic tickets and not showing up in court, and tax liens and lawsuits linking him to a company called Overtown Manufacturing.

Beard, who has South Florida ties, said Tuesday the city knew about his background. He said he withdrew his own name because he and the city were unable to agree on a compensation package.

Several residents expressed their concerns about the process.

Linda Lawrence told commissioners the city was moving to quickly to hire.

“Residents are concerned that the commission is making this too fast of a process,” she said. “When I hear ‘expedite,’ to me that can imply a rush to judgment.”

But Mayor Jim Cason quickly assured her that “expedite doesn’t mean sloppy.”