Topeka’s governing body receives information about city manager contract negotiations, asks for more

The five finalists for the vacant Topeka city manager’s position are, from left, Jeffrey Dingman, David Hales, Doug Gerber, Jason Gage and Brent Trout. (File/Submitted photos)

Topeka’s governing body once again took no action after meeting behind closed doors in executive session Friday morning to discuss contract negotiations to hire a new city manager.

 

Friday’s session lasted one hour. The governing body, which consists of the nine City Council members and Mayor Larry Wolgast, received some information, then asked for more, Wolgast said.

He said he hoped governing body members would get that information by Tuesday evening, when they could go into executive session to discuss it during their 6 p.m. weekly meeting in their chambers.

“We want the process to move along as quickly as possible, but at the same time we feel it’s important to take deliberate steps so that we’re sure that we make the right decision and do the right background work,” Wolgast said.

He said the identity of the person chosen wouldn’t be made public “until we have a candidate ready with a contract.”

City officials still weren’t revealing the identity of anyone with whom the city may be negotiating.

The governing body is seeking to replace former city manager Jim Colson, who resigned last October to return home to Arizona. Doug Gerber, Topeka’s former deputy city manager, has since been serving as interim city manager.

The city revealed last month that the five finalists being considered to replace Colson are Gerber, who has been with the city since 2014; Jeffrey Dingman, deputy city administrator since 2011 for Fort Smith, Ark.; Jason Gage, Salina’s city manager since 2005; David Hales, city manager since 2008 for Bloomington, Ill.; and Brent Trout, city administrator since 2007 for Mason City, Iowa.

The governing body hasn’t made public any decisions it may have made regarding narrowing the list.

Members of that body spent nearly 12½ hours behind closed doors in an executive session July 22 interviewing the finalists and discussing their qualifications.

They then continued discussing the topic in executive sessions for about three hours and 45 minutes on July 28, and for about 35 minutes Tuesday evening.

All 10 governing body members were present for Friday’s meeting at Topeka police headquarters, where they voted 9-0 soon after the meeting began to go into executive session.

Councilman and Deputy Mayor Jeff Coen, who wasn’t present for the vote, arrived soon afterward.

Wolgast said after Friday’s session that the deliberate nature of the proceedings was due in part to lessons governing body members learned from processes they undertook while selecting and hiring city managers in 2006 and 2012.

“We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can and have all the knowledge we need before we make a decision,” he said.

Contact Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

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