The members of Salida City Council began our city administrator search process in June and had Harry Brull present to council at the June 18 work session. Harry very generously donated all of his time, labor and experience to the search.
The initial goal was to get the word out to as many qualified individuals as possible. We utilized our relationship with the Colorado Municipal League along with ads in industry-specific magazines and newsletters.
Over the course of the next month, we received resumes, cover letters and answers to detailed questions from 45 candidates. Harry then went to work vetting all of those individuals. When this process was complete, he had narrowed down the list to 22 people. He screened out candidates who, based on his research, came back with red flags like ethical transgressions.
Harry then provided the mayor and council with the information on the remaining 22 individuals. He tasked us with narrowing down that list to the 4-5 candidates that each of us believed were the most qualified.
Because of the confidential nature of personnel matters, we were not allowed to refer to them by name but rather by a number that was assigned to each person. Council came back with their choices, which were discussed at our Aug. 6 work session. Council then agreed to invite seven semi-finalists back for interviews on Aug. 21-22.
We had one person drop out for personal reasons, leaving us with 6 interviewees. Interviews were conducted separately with the mayor and council, the department heads and staff representatives from each department.
It is important to note that we were all aware of Mr. Nelson’s incident prior to his selection as a semi-finalist. He had been up front with it in his application for the job.
Harry spent a great deal of time vetting Mr. Nelson and had extensive conversations with people in Winter Park along with Mr. Nelson. Based on what he discovered, it was his belief that the incident was a one-time event and that Mr. Nelson had taken responsibility for his actions.
We continued to look into the matter and Police Chief Johnson spent several hours discussing the issue with the Winter Park police chief along with Mr. Nelson.
We then met as a council and identified the four semi-finalists that we wanted to invite to the finalist interviews. One individual had accepted another job, leaving us with three finalists. They were invited back for final interviews on Sept. 20-21.
Sadly, on Sept. 14 Harry had a horrible bike accident and has been hospitalized ever since. The accident occurred during the end stages of the process at a time when we needed his expertise the most. There is no question that, had Harry been here, we would communicated much more effectively with the public, and we are truly sorry we let many community members down.
We were so focused on maintaining confidentiality that we did not advocate strongly enough for transparency. If this process were to occur again, it would make a lot of sense to involve a citizen advisory board that reflects community diversity.
Although those individuals would be bound by the same confidentiality requirements, we believe their inclusion in the process would instill more community confidence in the council decision. In addition, those diverse perspectives could very well have brought up issues that would have helped with the decision.
We also should have reached out to The Alliance prior to our decision. Although we felt hamstrung by confidentiality requirements, it still would have been an important conversation to have. The Alliance is a great community resource, and we are very sorry that they heard about Mr. Nelson the way they did.
From conversations we have had with them, we now realize how hard that must have been on staff and the victims in the community that they serve.
We also should have followed up with the newspapers and not assumed that they would run articles on Mr. Nelson prior to the candidate meet and greet.
Salida City Council