‘Interim’ is too often permanent for top Grand Junction positions

Two steps forward and one step back are about all one can expect from a governmental process. It’s usually the best that the system can provide. Right now, we see the Grand Junction City Council engage in just such an activity and can only hope the one step backward is as far as it goes.
After taking the necessary, and some might say overdue, step of making a change in the city manager’s position, the council has moved significantly in a direction that will allow it to craft a city government that is responsive and frugal. City management should also be focused on creating an environment allowing business and individuals to prosper and not veer off into policies and projects that advance agendas that do not reflect the community.
However, a disturbing sense of déjà vu was present in the last council meeting as the council decided to place the deputy city manager into position as the “interim” city manager. I put those quotes around the term interim, since its meaning seems to be cloudy when it comes to positions in Grand Junction government.
We don’t have to go back very far with the city manager position to see how that’s true. For instance, the just-terminated city manager had been acting manager after the departure of David Varley, who had been interim city manager during the search for a replacement of City Manager Kelly Arnold.
The city paid consultants to conduct a “search” for Arnold’s replacement, but that person was apparently right under their nose, as Varley was selected from over 70 applicants for the job. The recently fired Laurie Kadrich reportedly was one of those candidates for the position and was subsequently hired as deputy city manager.
Varley’s administration, however, was short-lived, lasting little more than six months, culminating in a perplexing chain of events.
Varley had taken a leave of absence in May of 2007, returned to the city in June and subsequently announced his resignation. Daily Sentinel reporter Mike Wiggins was able to determine, after six open-records requests, that Varley had flown to Tucson, Ariz., accompanied by the then police chief, as part of a trip financed by the city.
This apparently was a trip to a pain-management clinic in the area. Varley had a one-way ticket and the chief of police was sent round-trip as part of an operation approved by then-acting City Manager Kadrich.
After this, Kadrich was appointed to the permanent position of city manager with much excitement and significant salary. Varley reportedly received $107,000 in severance. Kadrich will reportedly receive roughly $200,000 as a total severance package.
In related “interim” news, the last two chiefs of police originally were to serve as interim appointments. The present chief of police was brought in as an interim appointment and initially said he had no intention of seeking the permanent position. Later, that changed and he was allowed to participate in an exhaustive process resulting in the noteworthy discovery that he was the best-suited person for the job all along.
This week’s City Council meeting seemed to portend a repeat of these adventures. Council members excitedly asked the deputy city manager to step in as interim manager and offered him money and, I suppose, the sun, the moon and the stars to do the job.
This just keeps happening, but it begins to have the appearance of a charade — and an expensive one at that. This is an opportunity to be taken seriously and deliberately, with the City Council members closely investigating what policies of existing management contributed to their decision to make an emphatic change at the top of the organization.
It is not the time to make impulsive decisions to close out a difficult period based on a belief that all problems are solved with a single action.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


COMMENTS

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It is rare when I agree with you Rick, but in this case you laid out a compelling argument for some policy change. There is no point in launching a nation-wide search, and paying someone to manage that search if the result is always going be to hire the next guy (or gal) in the pecking order.

It must be galling to Mr. Wagner, who failed to stick in two public service jobs, to see competent people get promoted because they know more about what they’re doing than a flashy outsider.

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