The city of Statesboro spent a little more than $44,500 on its two searches for a police chief in 2016 and 2017. With help from the consulting firm Developmental Associates LLC, the second search, costing three times as much as the first, resulted in the hiring of Mike Broadhead, due to start April 17 as the new chief.
With a Georgia Open Records Act request to City Hall, the Statesboro Herald obtained records of the spending, ranging from Developmental Associates' already-known contract price, which was the largest single expense, down to doughnuts served candidates and the out-of-town professionals who helped evaluate them. Adding these up, the first search, which concluded in fall 2016 after three finalists were introduced to the public but none of them hired, cost $10,348; the second search, begun last fall and now concluded with the hiring, has apparently cost $34,399.
"I definitely think that it's been worth it," said City Manager Randy Wetmore. "When we went out for the proposals and we picked Developmental Associates with the help of the council, they do it a little bit differently than everybody else, and I think we got a better product because of the assessment center they did. I think it helped really test the candidates."
Wetmore and city Human Resources Director Jeffery Grant answered questions last week about the costs. Wetmore started as city manager Sept. 1 and in his second week on the job announced the relaunch of the police chief search.
At a public meeting Oct. 25, City Council heard two firms' proposals of search services. Developmental Associates, based in Durham, North Carolina, made the slightly lower-cost base offer at $23,000. But what Wetmore and council members described as the main attraction of Developmental Associates' approach was its use of an "assessment center" instead of interviews alone.
The second search attracted 45 applicants, including 17 from Georgia, with the rest from 19 other states. Developmental Associates and the city invited six semifinalists to the assessment center activity Feb. 9-10. Four actually attended and participated in role-playing scenarios, such as a simulated press conference and crisis situation.
A few local people, including a couple of City Council members, but also some city and county managers, human resources directors and law enforcement people, "most of them not from this area," served as assessors to evaluate the candidates, Wetmore said.
Then a panel of local people did a follow-up interview with Broadhead.
"Again, we were getting different perspectives and different ideas, and I think that was a very helpful process as well, and I think in the end we ended up with a fine candidate, and we're looking for Mike to get here soon," Wetmore said Thursday.
The $24,000 item
City Council on Oct. 25 had authorized Mayor Jan Moore to negotiate the final contract with Developmental Associates at an amount not to exceed $30,000.
An invoice from Developmental Associates dated Feb. 13 showed a bottom line of $24,815. But one $715 charge for "EQi" included emotional intelligence testing of some current city employees, Grant said. To the base bid of $23,000, the firm added $600 for EQi analysis on six people he said were apparently police chief candidates, plus $500 for "candidate feedback."
Thomas C. Younce, a retired police chief from Garner, North Carolina, separately billed the city $7,500 Feb. 19 for performing background investigations. This included $1,200 each for background checks on five candidates, one of them Broadhead, for a subtotal of $6,000, plus $1,500 for an extended background investigation of Broadhead alone.
The city manager can approve expenditures up to $20,000 without a council vote.
Other recent costs
Other costs related to the successful second search include five charges of $123.34, totaling $616.70, from Days Inn for five room nights, dated Feb. 8 on a statement printout. Handwritten on the same sheet, and without dates, are seven charges of $127.99, totaling $895.93, from Comfort Inn.
These are from stays by candidates and out-of-town assessors for the assessment center, Grant said.
He also charged $204.12 at Chick-Fil-A and $44.18 at the Wal-Mart Supercenter that week for items used to feed the participants. For Feb. 9-10 doughnuts and coffee, the city spent $56.12 with Krispy Kreme and $67.82 with Daylight Donuts.
Earlier in the second search, the city incurred charges of $200 Nov. 27 for advertising the job on the Discover Policing website and $300 Dec. 31 for a web posting with NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Officials indicated that some charges, related to motel stays, were not necessarily final.
"Some of these are pending charges due to a disputed credit card statement," Leah Harden, the city's assistant open records officer, wrote in her March 24 cover letter responding to the Herald's request.
Grant and Wetmore said the result should not change the total by much.
The first search, by the city's human resources office with assistance from the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police in 2016, drew 21 applicants, and three finalists were introduced to the public in August. But after questions arose about one of the finalists from news reports concerning her previous department, city officials said they were continuing background investigations.
The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police charged $750 for its services, in which three assessors ranked applicants, according to a June 28, 2016, invoice.
But background investigations on the finalists were the costliest part of last year's search. The Lawrenceville firm Southern Professional Investigations billed $425 for its investigation on Hendersonville, North Carolina, Police Chief Herbert Blake; $3,268.98 for the investigation on former Horry County, South Carolina, Police Chief Saundra Rhodes; and $2,793.13 for the one on retired GBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Sikes of Statesboro.
Background checks are typically more extensive for a police chief than for other city employees, Wetmore and Grant agreed.
"I think whenever you hire a police chief, you're always going to look at that area a little bit more in detail just because of the position and the kind of work they do," Wetmore said. "So, I think it's pretty typical to do what we did."
Other expenses for the first search in 2015 included $450 for Discover Policing website ads; $264.61 to the Statesboro Herald for classified ads in the Herald, Pennysaver, Connect Statesboro and online; and $321.41 to Morris Publishing Group, parent company of the Savannah Morning News and the Augusta Chronicle, also for classifieds. The city paid The Painted Chef $1,000 for catering the Aug. 9 meet-and-greet for the three finalists in last year's aborted search, plus $93.38 to Cotton Patch Bakery Deli for some lunches that day.
Motel bills and travel reimbursements for the finalists and for Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn, who helped with the interviews, also contributed to the total of more than $10,000 for the first search.
City Councilman Sam Lee Jones, in a phone message Friday, said he wanted to confirm the expense totals before commenting on whether the searches were cost-effective. But he said he liked the outcome in that Broadhead appears to be well qualified, personable and "ready to go to work for the city of Statesboro."
"At this time I think we're going to have a good chief for the city of Statesboro who will serve and protect the citizens of Statesboro," Jones said.
Councilman Phil Boyum participated in the assessment center, which he said provided a meaningful look at the candidates' skills and personalities. He described the search process, which began with the mayor and council indicating what they wanted in a police chief, as comprehensive.
"It was a process that included professionals, people from the community, interested parties, council, staff, the mayor," Boyum said. "I don't think I have ever been involved with an employment search as comprehensive as what we went through for the police chief of Statesboro."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.