City Administrator Search Firm Wants Out of Contract
Human Resources Committee is recommending that the city part ways with Florida-based Colin Baenziger & Associates in a mutual agreement.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated at 10 a.m. Thursday with a clarification about the potential contract prices with Voorhees.
The search firm hired to look for the next city administrator for Waukesha wants to walk away from the contract — and it looks like the city is willing to do just that.
The city's Human Resources Committee Wednesday unanimously agreed to recommend that the Common Council vacate the contract and pay Florida-based Colin Baenziger & Associates $5,000 on its $20,500 contract. The committee is also recommending the city enter into a contract for up to $15,500 with Voorhees Associates to finish the city administrator search.
Alderwoman Joan Francoeur clarified Thursday morning that a contract with Voorhees has not yet been negotiated.
"That is the cap, not necessarily the amount that will be agreed upon," she said via an email to Patch. "As I stated last night, until the council authorizes the hiring and there are discussions with Voorhees, the amount of the contract will not be known."
The city administrator position has been filled on an interim basis by Community Development Director Steve Crandell. The city administrator selection committee had offered the position to Shawn Gillen, who cited family and contract obligations as he declined the job offer.
The committee had previously discussed options about what it would do if Gillen turned down the offer. Baenziger gave the committee several options, with the firm's preferred option being to opt out from the contract and to allow the committee to contract with a different firm.
Baenziger has been an “accommodating and gentlemanly consulting partner with the city,” said Francoeur, but it was a mutual agreement between him and the selection committee that it was in the best interest of the city to look else where.
The process is “not easy” and has been difficult as the city continues to look for the administrator. The firm had 42 applicants for the job after a nationwide search, which was whittled down to 12, six, four and finally one candidate.
“These are important decisions that have long-term implications,” Francoeur said.
Alderman Vance Skinner was surprised to learn Baenziger and the city were looking to part ways. He said he was “disappointed” and “perplexed” by the outcome.
“I thought we hit the nail on the head with this particular firm,” Skinner said.
Francoeur supported hiring Voorhees Associates, which has headhunting experience in Waukesha and Wisconsin, over Colin Baenziger from the beginning. But Skinner and others on the council voted to have Colin Baenziger, who was looking to begin recruitment consulting work in Wisconsin.
Past Conflicts Could Play Into Recruitment Difficulties
The clashes between former City Administrator Lori Luther and Mayor Jeff Scrima immediately after Scrima took office are well documented. After problems arose in between the two, the council stripped Scrima of his governing authority, making Luther responsible only to the council.
However, after Luther’s departure, they changed the job description to clarify that the administrator will report to the mayor unless the mayor’s directives are in violation of council action.
While Francoeur deferred questions about that conflict affecting the search process to Baenziger, Skinner noted in an interview after the meeting that it is easy for anyone to complete a Google search and find out about the past problems.
“I think that is a component,” Skinner said. “I don’t think anyone can deny that.”
But Skinner said he wants to move forward with the city — and to not hash out the past problems.
“It doesn’t do us any bit of good,” he said about dwelling on the past issues.