Topeka’s governing body on Friday will resume working to choose a city manager.
That body will hold a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. at the Law Enforcement Center, 320 S. Kansas Ave., said city media relations coordinator Amy McCarter on Monday.
She indicated governing body members will be asked Friday to vote to go behind closed doors into executive session.
That body, which consists of the nine city council members and Mayor Larry Wolgast, took no action Saturday after spending nearly 12 1/2 hours interviewing the five finalists for the city manager’s job and discussing their qualifications.
Doug Gerber, the former deputy city manager, has been interim city manager since former city manager Jim Colson resigned last October to return home to Arizona.
Those are Gerber, who has been since with 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, Il..; and Brent Trout, city administrator since 2007 for Mason City, Iowa.
The city’s governing body met for 90 minutes with each finalist during Saturday’s session. Also taking part were Jacque Russell, the city’s human resources director, and Doug Thomas, senior vice president for recruitment for Strategic Government Resources, the Keller, Texas-based search firm that’s helping Topeka find a city manager.
The candidates had all appeared at a public reception Friday at the city’s Holliday Building.
Also on Friday, McCarter responded to a question from The Capital-Journal as to whether the governing body was acting legally by paring down the field of candidates for city manager while meeting behind closed doors in executive session.
“No binding action shall take place during closed or executive recesses,” says Kansas Statute Section 75-4319c, which is part of the Kansas Open Meetings Act and can be found online at http://www.kscoplaw.com/KSAs/Ch75Art43.htm#75-4319.
McCarter replied that the one binding action the governing body would need to take to hire a city manager would be to approve a contract with that person.
The governing body would not take binding action by eliminating candidates from contention because their removal does not necessarily preclude that body from eventually hiring them, McCarter said.
“These preliminary discussions are not binding,” she said.
The city didn’t respond to a follow-up question Friday from The Capital-Journal as to why the action to eliminate candidates from consideration isn’t considered to be binding.
Ron Keefover, president of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, said Monday it was his perception that no action a municipal governing body takes to hire a city manager is binding until it votes to spend public money to enter into a contract.
Keefover said he didn’t consider the elimination of candidates to be binding because governing body members could later opt to reconsider.
Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.