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Council begins search for interim city manager

The City Council Wednesday began the process of finding an interim replacement for departing City Manager Mark Dombroski.

Greg Prothman, of Prothman Company, met with the council, which, absent councilors Kim Brackett and Bill Knobloch (who joined via telephone) voted unanimously to begin negotiations with the company to find a manager, or team of managers.

The agreed upon motion stipulated that Dombroski’s replacement be available to start work five business days prior to his departure on Oct. 31.

Furthermore, the interim, or at least one of the interims, must possess a knowledge of the island and its unique political structure.

“This community, from its very inception, has wanted to be part of its local government,” councilor Debbie Vancil said. “We need to have someone who not only is willing to work with the community but recognizes how important it is.”

Prothman said finding a candidate within the short time frame is more than doable. And, while Prothman said the council’s “laundry list of potential candidates isn’t great,” there are some possibilities on the island.

One name that came up several times during the meeting was Lee Walton, who previously served as the Bainbridge city administrator and worked as an interim city manager for Spokane Valley after the city of nearly 90,000 became incorporated in 2003.

The negotiations come with the caveat that the council can choose to directly pursue potential candidates on the island.

If an interim candidate is provided by Prothman and approved by the council, that person is technically an employee of the company. Prothman said that his firm would pay the manager. The city would be responsible for paying the manager’s salary to Prothman with an additional 35 percent for taxes and benefits.

Whatever remains of that 35 percent is Prothman’s profit. He estimated that it would be about 12 percent.

A second manager would cost the city more money, unless the two interim managers worked the equivalent of one full-time manager.

Dombroski informed the council Monday that he accepted a position as vice president of a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. He said that he will provide energy and utility advisory services to federal agencies.

Early in the meeting, councilor Kjell Stoknes suggested putting off the search for a permanent replacement and instead focus on the immediate goal of getting someone in place that can capably replace Dombroski and gain some knowledge from him before he leaves. Council Mayor Chris Snow agreed and said despite the time crunch, the council shouldn’t hurry.

“I think that it’s important for us to move quickly, but not with undue haste,” he said.

Councilor Kim Brackett, who missed the meeting because of a family emergency, said in a statement that Dombroski’s departure is not a cause for panic.

“While some members of council may view our situation as an emergency, I do not believe it is,” she wrote.

“Every day, people transition in and out of employment in the public and private sectors. Let’s stop, take a deep breath, and before taking action to retain an outside consultant, let’s first have a conversation to develop a thoughtful plan to ensure a stable transition from the current city manager to an interim manager.”

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What's next

Council Mayor Chris Snow and City Attorney Paul McMurray will continue negotiations with Prothman. The soonest a contract could be brought to the full council is at its Oct. 7 meeting.

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