MADEIRA BEACH — Finding a new city manager is not a simple task, as the City Commission is beginning to find out.
The group's first choice backed out after an initial background check prompted two commissioners to call him unqualified.
The latest glitch arose last week when some commissioners failed to properly fill out a rating sheet intended to reduce a list of seven candidates to three finalists.
The plan was to have an outside firm then conduct an in-depth background check on the three finalists and then invite them to be interviewed during a public meeting and a community social on July 26. According to that schedule, the commission would then name the new city manager after its Aug. 3 workshop.
That schedule is now in serious doubt.
"I cannot officially say which applicants are on the city's short list for city manager," Interim City Manager and fire Chief Bill Mallory said Friday.
He collected rating ballots from the commission during a workshop meeting Tuesday and announced who he thought were the commission's top three picks.
Later that night, he re-examined the commission's score sheets and decided he had "misread" the total scores and on Wednesday issued a new and different group of finalists.
Commissioners were supposed to give each of the seven candidates a numerical score ranging from 1 to 7, with the highest score going to their top pick.
This process, Mallory said, would allow a mid-level candidate to be fairly considered if the commissioners were split on their top pick.
Only Commissioners Terry Lister and Carol Reynolds followed the directions accurately.
Mayor Travis Palladeno gave his top candidate a 7 and everybody else a 1.
"My pick is my pick. I want to make sure my guy is interviewed," Palladeno said Friday.
Commissioners Nancy Oakley and Robin Vander Velde only scored three candidates, leaving the other four blank. Neither signed their rating sheets.
By Thursday, Mallory said he was "increasingly uncomfortable" with deciding whom the commission picked as finalists.
"I realized that I could not post an accurate score for every applicant because not all of the ballots were filled out," Mallory said. He will ask commissioners to fill out ballots again at Tuesday's commission meeting.
Whoever does get the job will take over not just the management of the city, but also the daily task of running the city's public works department.
Creating that dual function will enable the city to hire additional firefighters and spend more money on long-delayed projects, Palladeno said.
The city's last manager, W. D. Higginbotham Jr., left in February after getting the previous commission to fire him just weeks before the election that brought Palladeno and Vander Velde to office.
His $54,000 severance pay is still a contentious issue and the subject of a lawsuit that another former city manager, Jim Madden, filed against the city.