City cancels interviews, delays launch of citizen budget committee
The city has canceled interviews scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday for the upcoming council budget working group, one week after formally announcing the committee’s formation.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the city said applicant interviews are “being postponed to allow the city to determine if the objective of the ad hoc committee is being achieved by the proposed process.”
The group, which was supposed to start meeting on January 8, was going to be closed to the public and members of the press, igniting transparency concerns among some residents.
At last week’s council meeting, the city and Councilmember Jennifer Stark said the reason for the closure was because the group would be handling sensitive city personnel information such as staffing concerns.
City Manager Tara Schultz acknowledged the group being closed was one of the reasons why the interviews were postponed.
“I think we heard some concerns, and that is definitely adding to the reasons why we needed to step back to make sure we were doing what we were intended and what the community had wanted,” Ms. Schultz said.
She also said councilmembers had heard concerns from the public, but declined to comment further.
Twenty-one people applied for the five or so available spots in the group, which was to work in tandem with city employees as part of the budget process.
Councilmembers Jennifer Stark and Ed Reece, as well as Ms. Schultz and Finance Director Adam Pirrie would have led the interview panel, with Mr. Reece and Ms. Stark making the final decisions.
A voicemail to Mr. Reece was left late Tuesday afternoon asking for comment.
Applicants were notified by email from the city manager’s office at 2:50 p.m. on Tuesday that interviews were cancelled.
“We apologize for the short notice and inconvenience this cancellation has caused to your schedule,” executive assistant Tanya Moreno related.
Ms. Schultz told the COURIER the announcement was made before any interviews were conducted.
She said the same group process was used in the past, and the city wanted to replicate it for this group.
“What we were hoping to do is take this process to a new level of having a community group—that’s something that wasn’t done before,” she said. “We were trying to do something different and something more inclusive.”
In the statement, the city said the group was “formed out of a desire for a more inclusive and open budget process that fosters and facilitates multiple perspectives,” allowing for more public input early in the budget development process, while also balancing “the integrity and confidentiality of contracts, negotiations and personnel matters until the city council makes a final decision in June.”
The city further stated they are “taking time to thoughtfully and deliberately determine how best to achieve these goals.”
The outcome of that process will be shared sometime in January, the city said.
“We sincerely appreciate the community’s feedback and patience,” the city added.
The next city council meeting will be on January 14, with the following meeting on January 28.