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Riverdale council members, residents worry about tranparency going into FY 2015

RIVERDALE — Riverdale’s rush to build a more efficient government before the new fiscal year raised some questions about transparency at the council meeting this week.

The city is finishing up a search for a city manager and approving a budget — and it’s just filled two new assistant city manager positions — all in the hopes of bettering Riverdale’s government before fiscal year 2015. But not everyone is pleased with how the changes are being made.

“I’m basically an angry taxpayer right now,” said Clayton County Board of Education member Jessie Goree.

Goree spoke during Monday’s meeting. She said she felt as though the public was left out of the city manager selection process.

“I don’t know what the process is because I’m not sure that it’s been advertised anywhere,” she said. “I get all this information about concerts, classes that you’re having and those types of things. But I haven’t recalled seeing anything sent to me about selection of the most important position that I can think of, which is the city manager.”

Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon said at Monday’s meeting she felt the search process was transparent, since it involved Riverdale residents.

The city first decided to open the search for a city manager at a work session meeting Feb. 24, about 10 months after former City Manager Iris Jessie retired. By March 1, City Clerk Sherry Henderson had a list of people who were eligible to be on the committee that would sort through resumes for the position.

Henderson said the eight people on the applicant review committee were people in the community who could help in an executive search — including residents. Each member of the committee went through the pool of 25 applicants until it was down to eight. Then, each member rated the applicants and sent their selection for top three applicants to Henderson. She tallied up the scores and the four highest scoring applicants’ resumes were sent to the council.

The council is expected to interview candidates and make a selection in executive session. A decision should be made soon, Henderson said.

Goree said she didn’t feel as though that process or the process of creating and filling two new assistant city manager positions was transparent enough.

The council voted May 28 to add an assistant manager position. Both positions were filled that same Monday as amended items to the budget. The positions were filled by Interim City Manager Nate Mingo and Planning and Zoning Director Camilla Moore.

Henderson said the assistant manager positions were filled so quickly because the candidates were already department leaders who would continue leading their departments — just with the added responsibility of assisting the city manager.

Councilman Kenneth Ruffin agreed with Goree during Monday night’s meeting — he was not thrilled to see the addition of the two new positions.

“It seems like every meeting, we come in, we hear about transparency and all that, but at the last meeting, there were three or four things added on [to the budget], and most of the time it’s been new positions,” he said. “There is a procedure in place to set the agenda four or five days in advance, and every time that has just gone out the window.”

Members of the council speculated at the meeting that Ruffin influenced Goree into making the remarks she did about transparency during the public comment section, but Goree said she had noticed the issues on her own.

Ruffin said he had no problem with the selection of Mingo and Moore as assistant city managers, but that he believed the funds used to create the new positions could have gone to giving city employees a raise or working on economic development.

Clayton News Daily could not reach Ruffin for comment as of press time.

Councilwoman Wanda Wallace said she believed the selection of the city manager and assistant managers were done transparently. However, she also pointed out that a draft of the city budget was pushed through to the public with changes that hadn’t been seen by the council yet.

Wallace said she felt the two new assistant manager positions would help with those sorts of problems.

“Transparency’s what we’ve always asked for,” she said. “I feel now you have two new intelligent people in place to bring transparency and stuff to the floor.”