After several hours of discussion, the Palmetto Bay Village Council decided Monday night to make Interim Village Manager Edward Silva permanent. The vote was unanimous.
Silva’s contract will be negotiated by the council and is set to be discussed on June 16 during a special meeting.
The move means that the council has ended its longtime goal of hiring a search firm to find a manager, a process that has been slow and stagnant. Previous Manager Ron Williams retired on March 31, and the council had been preparing to begin the search process as far back as July 2014.
The village’s plan to hire a firm were scratched Monday after Mayor Eugene Flinn abruptly proposed to make Silva permanent. If the contract falls through, the council will reopen the selection process.
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Silva, the village’s director of building and capital projects since 2007, was appointed interim manager on April 1. He currently fills both roles. If he accepts the permanent job, his former position will become open.
Williams worked for the village since 2003 — shortly after incorporation — when he came on board as public works director. He held the manager’s job since 2007.
“I want to move forward and I just see this process going on forever,” Flinn said Monday night. “I want to promote from within; I want to move forward. I’m getting antsy here because there a lot of things I want to do and I know I can get them done with Mr. Silva.”
At first, council members were not on the same page.
Council member Tim Schaffer wanted to open the process to the public; Vice Mayor John DuBois wanted to forget hiring a search firm and appoint the village’s human resources department to conduct the search.
Council member Karyn Cunningham was vocal about wanting the future manager to go through a thorough vetting process, and that the conversation on the dais wasn’t what was on the agenda.
“I am more baffled and confused then ever,” Cunningham said. “The item was to discuss the criteria for village manager and the executive search team. I feel like were a little bit off ... I have some reservation tonight. I think this requires some discussion. I welcome the opportunity to promote from within but my caveat is, I feel that we have to have some sort of evaluation process.”
The council’s original discussion item was “the criteria for the Village Manager position, the criteria for the Executive search firm, and potential selection of the executive search firm,” according to the agenda. The item had been on the council meeting agenda for months but kept being delayed.
A running theme in the council’s discussions on finding a new manager has been a fear that without the promise of confidentiality – impossible to grant given Florida’s public records laws – potential candidates would be loath to apply if currently employed.
In February, council members floated the idea that hiring a search firm to pare down the list of candidates could keep at least those who didn’t make the final round out of the public eye, but village lawyer Claudio Riedi (who was filling in for regular village lawyer Dexter Lehtinen) told them that was unlikely.
The original resolution to appoint Silva as the interim includes a stipulation that he can’t apply for the job on a permanent basis — something DuBois said would encourage as many people as possible to apply.
“It’s difficult for an existing city manager of another city to be interested in our job if they think there’s really a possibility that we’re not going to hire a new city manager. They’re not going to risk showing their hand to their current employers,” DuBois said back in February, noting that keeping in-house applicants from applying would attract great talent.
But that is no longer possible, DuBois said Monday night, as he gave in and voted “yes” to appoint Silva.
“It appears as though, with all due respect, you [Mayor Flinn] control the agenda, you obviously want Dr. Silva here. I agree we shouldn’t let this drag on. But what has happened tonight is that we have undermined that already,” DuBois said, referring to the benefits of the original resolution.
“We have lost that advantage. I think we’re at a stage where we might as well remove that condition and proceed.”
The mayor then randomly called a five-minute break to talk to Silva privately. They later came back and voted unanimously.
To watch the discussion visit Village of Palmetto Bay’s website.