Statesboro City Council members voted Tuesday to extend interim city manager Frank Parker’s contract by six months, as well as give him a raise. Councilman Travis Chance opposed the other council member’s votes, stating he did not agree with spending more money when the original reason for hiring Parker was to save money.
Parker, a former Statesboro city councilman, is facing a couple more weeks on the second of two 30-day terms, having been hired originally as interim manager for $3,000 a month, on a rolling 30 day contract that was renewable at the end of each term. Councilmen voted two weeks ago to renew his 30-day contract, but Tuesday night, the motion was placed on the table to offer Parker a six-month, renewable contract, at $4,000 a month. The motion passed on a 4-1 vote.
Chance voted against the move based upon the monetary increase, he said. Parker was initially hired as a temporary fix to the city’s instability issues following the resignation of former city manager Shane Haynes. Council members at the time voted to hire Parker as a money-saving move as well, paying him a fraction of what an interim city manager from the outside would cost.
City leaders said in October there was an $8,000 surplus in the budget that could cover Parker’s fees, but after the third month, that surplus would be exhausted, leaving a $1,000 deficit. Based on those figures, at $4,000 a month for the next six months, the city will end up with a $25,000 deficit.
Chance said this is not an acceptable move, although he likes Parker and believes he is doing a good job helping the city get back on its feet after months of turmoil and controversy.
Where the money will come from is a question to which Chance has no answer. “That still is not something I can get a definitive answer on,” he said Wednesday.
Approving Parker’s increase in salary, especially at a six-month agreement, “has basically created a problem,” he said. “We’re still over budget.”
When asked about his vote to approve Parker’s new contract, which Parker said was offered by the city council and not a demand from him, Councilman Gary Lewis said “I don’t want to give out that information right now. Call Joe Brannen. He’s the mayor.”
Brannen said he and other councilmen are pleased with Parker’s performance while only six weeks into the job, and wanted to put him in a longer term contract than the rolling 30 day contract.
“We temporarily gave him a 30-day contract to see if it was something he wanted to do,” he said.”Things are going well, and we wanted to put him in a long-term contract, with a salary increase. We feel he is doing a good job as interim city manager.”
Brannen said two previous interim city managers, each of whom lived at least four hours away from Statesboro, were paid a “good bit more” than Parker’s $4,000 a month. “We like what we were seeing and wanted to offer him a more reasonable package.”
Parker’s contract does not include benefits, but expenses he may incur will be reimbursed, he said.
Chance called the move “fiscally irresponsible” and said “I can’t see subjecting tax payers to any more incompetence.” By that, he means spending more money than planned, moving into a deficit instead of a surplus, and thus going against what the council had in mind at first – saving money.
When some council members first brought Parker’s name into the mix, during a discussion about seeking Hayne’s resignation, they had not even consulted Parker.
“A motion was made to ask whether I would accept the position of interim city manager,” he said. “I was never called into that executive session or questioned.” But the following week, Brannen asked whether he would consider the position. Parker said he spoke to several city department heads about the idea and made one stipulation: that Haynes’ resignation be finalized before he accepted the interim city manager position.
“I wanted a resolution (to Hayne’s situation) first,” he said.
During the city council meeting where council members voted to seek Haynes’ resignation, council went into executive session to discuss offering Parker the position. Afterwards, the council voted to offer Parker the 30-day rolling contract at $3,000 a month, he said. Parker accepted the offer.
He said he is satisfied with the terms of the current six-month position. “I am considered contract labor,” he said. “There are no benefits of any kind – no car, no phone, none of that sort of stuff. No insurance, no retirement.”
Could the interim city manager position work into a full time position as city manager? Possibly, Brannen said.
“When we get everything together (regarding requirements for the position) he will have the opportunity to apply,” he said. “Consideration would be given.”
Parker said he would consider the position, depending upon several factors.
“Possibly, but I don’t want to pre-commit,” he said. “It has been very fulfilling the last six weeks.”
By the end of his current contract, Parker will have more than six months – close to eight – experience as interim city manager. That, paired with his love for the city, his positive working relationship with many city employees stemming from his days on council, could prove him qualified to apply, he said.
By the end of the six month contract, he will have a more solid answer, he said. “We’ll know at that point and time if we have a good fit,” he said. “If we feel comfortable, I’ll (apply for the position.)”
Chance said he believes Parker will do a good job for the city. “Frank Parker, I believe will be able to keep the city on course for the next five to seven months,” he said. But the only right way would be to advertise the position instead of offering it solely to Parker, he added.
“There needs to be advertising of the position to ensure the best candidate is chosen,” he said, adding that while he has no dislikes or complaints about Parker, other candidates could prove more experienced and qualified. Allowing others to apply for the position would be the only fair and honest choice, he said.
Parker agreed that other candidates may be more qualified than he. “At some point I have no problem stepping aside and letting someone do it who can do it better,” he said.
But in the meantime, Parker said he will do his best to help the city get back into stable shape.
“I’ve set my sights to the future,” he said. “The past is going to have to be in the past.” He said he has an open door policy as interim city manager, and welcomes anyone to visit him about city issues.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.