Is there recourse for problem hire?

Published 8:50 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

Does the city have any recourse against The Brimeyer Group? I submit Brimeyer did not provide the services the city paid for. Rhonda Moen, finance director, uncovered Norman’s financial discrepancies. How come Brimeyer/Verified Credentials didn’t?

The council should request the city attorney to review the contract with The Brimeyer Group and the entire file Brimeyer/Verified Credentials Inc. gathered on Jim Norman. Brimeyer received 71 resumes, all but 18 wound up in the shedder. Eighteen reduced to 10, then to five. Of the five finalists, three had been fired. I doesn’t speak well of the search.

On March 19, five finalists were invited to Albert Lea for more interviews. Council members offered the manager position to Alan Lanning of Colorado. It’s not clear to me what happened to Mr. Lanning. Council members immediately set Plan B in motion, offfering the position to second choice Jim Norman of Afton. Salary $95,000, $500 a month car allowance, $5,000 moving expenses. He was issued a city credit card.

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Mr. Norman allegedly made unauthorized charges to the city’s credit card totaling $2,300. Mr. Norman says “he made a small mistake.” If Ms. Moen did not catch these “small mistakes,” would they have developed into larger mistakes? Naturally he’s sorry.

I was in the process of contacting Mayor Mike Murtaugh and 3rd Ward Councilor Ellen Kehr. Advising them to do their own search, before contacting a headhunter. After 25 years Paul Sparks, retired as city manager. I believed the City Council was justified in hiring a search firm. However, after Victoria Simenson resigned, there was no rush to hire a search firm. Ms. Simensen gave six months’ notice. She would help in the search. The council could not wait to hire Brimeyer Group. Their fee, $20,000, plus $3,500 for expenses. What did Albert Lea get for their expenditure? About $23,500 to Brimeyer, plus inviting the five finalists, their spouses, transportation, lodging, meals — guesstimate $40 grand!

The City Council should revise the city manager’s requirements. Had the same requirements been in force, Victoria Simensen would not have qualified for the city manager’s position. She grew into the position and became better in her job each passing year. Ask yourself what did your new requirements bring to the table? There must be another Simensen (female/male) in our surrounding area?

Finally, I talked to Ellen Kehr shortly after Mr. Norman was hired. Based on my experience, I gave Mr. Norman two years, I missed it by a mile — actually by one year and seven months.

Bob Mares

Albert Lea

Editor’s note: To be sure, The Brimeyer Group and Verified Credentials indeed performed a credit check on Jim Norman; it came back clean. Rhonda Moen’s statement on Norman’s credit is based on an e-mail he sent to her. That e-mail has not been made public. Alan Lanning and the city leaders did not agree on pay. Efforts to determine whether Victoria Simonson would qualify for this search have been fruitless — the records no longer exist — but many people in Albert Lea have speculated as such.