NARRAGANSETT – By a 4-1 vote and after 40 minutes of debate on Monday night, the Narragansett Town Council agreed to interview candidates in a private executive session for its open town manager position on Saturday, Jan. 12, and if needed, Jan. 19.
Councilor Matthew Mannix was the lone vote against, with councilors James Callaghan, Douglas McLaughlin, Glenna Hagopian and Susan Cicilline Buonanno voting for. The interviews are expected to be held sometime between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on those Saturdays.
Mannix said he objected to having the meeting in an executive session, and said candidates should instead be interviewed in front of residents, given the past issues the town had had with managers.
“Do I know there are drawbacks to this? Yes I do,” he said. “From an open government standpoint, from a place of democracy, I’d like to have people see the questions … I know it’s not the way it’s been done for a long time.”
Other councilors said that asking candidates to submit to public interviews could cause consequences for them if they’re not hired, and also open the town up to litigation as a result.
“How are we going to attract professionally employed people for a public interview and expect them to go back to their place of employment?” McLaughlin said. “I know what your intent is, but it’s not very practical and it’s not fair to the candidate we have in to interview.”
Hagopian, Callaghan and Buonanno echoed McLaughlin’s remarks, although Buonanno and Narragansett resident Ryan Field asked if a compromise could be reached. However, other suggestions – such as televising the interviews or letting the nine members of the search committee attend – were not incorporated.
“I think that open government is something we all strive for, but in this situation the negative aspects outweigh that,” Callaghan said.
Acting town manager and Narragansett Police Chief Dean Hoxsie noted that candidates would only have four days to make arrangements for the interview. As a result, the council modified its original motion from just one interview session to two.
Typically when other towns have hired a manager, after interviews the council will debate on candidates in executive session. Since hiring a town manager is a personnel matter, debate does not have to be in public, to protect the confidentiality of the candidates.
Depending on the will of the council:
- One candidate can be selected
- Several candidates can be ranked and then pursued in order
- No candidates can be deemed appropriate for the open position
The council would then negotiate with the selected candidate, and if a contract is reached, the matter would then go for a public vote and comment.