Local News

UPDATE: Assembly talks about hiring fairness

As reported earlier, Sitka’s interim municipal administrator was added last night to the list of finalists to hold the job permanently.

Jay Sweeney joins the list without having gone through the same process as the other four finalists: Pam Caskie, Mark Gorman, Cynna Gubatayo and Jim Pascale.

Raven News managed to reach all seven Assembly members today. Specifically, we asked them to give their thoughts on whether they had concerns about the fairness of the process, given the late addition to the list.

Assembly member Thor Christianson said for him, the bottom line is finding the best administrator possible.

“And we’re not on a playground. It may not be fair,” he said. “But we want the best administrator. Jay has had a three-month long interview in my mind. He has been in this job, we’ve seen him, he’s a known quantity. We’ve done a lot more talking to him than we have any of the other candidates.”

Sweeney has been city finance director since 2011 and has been acting as interim administrator since Jim Dinley’s resignation in April. He did not apply to have the position full-time.

Pete Esquiro also said he didn’t have concerns about the process, and emphasized that nothing has been decided. It was good for the Assembly to expand its “resource base,” he said. Matt Hunter shared those feelings, saying the Assembly doesn’t know where the process will end up.

Mayor Mim McConnell also emphasized that the hiring process has yet to be determined, at least when it comes to Sweeney. Assembly members could not discuss him in executive session last night, apart from asking whether he was interested in the job. McConnell said determining what steps to take to vet Sweeney as a candidate will come tonight, in open session.

Phyllis Hackett, on the other hand, said she felt the late addition of another finalist was not fair to the process the Assembly adopted. She didn’t want to go on tape, but said she anticipates the hire will be done tonight.

Michelle Putz struck a balance. She said she’s unclear on how to proceed, but that it was perfectly reasonable for the Assembly to add Sweeney’s name to the list.

“Do I know what is the right way to do it past here, if we are interested in hiring him? I don’t know what the right way is,” Putz said. “I think we’ll have to discuss that tonight.”

Mike Reif said he has a lot of questions, but that it would be premature to share his thoughts on the process publicly.

Since we’ve shared background info on the other candidates, here’s what we can tell you about Sweeney: He holds a bachelor’s degree in forest products from the University of Idaho, and a master’s of business administration from Indiana University, with majors in accounting, and management and information systems. He spent about 12 years on active duty as a finance officer in the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of major.

His work history includes three years as Sitka’s finance director in the 1990s, followed by the same job in Kenai. He’s also held senior financial positions at Allen Marine, Sheldon Jackson College, Samson Tug and Barge, as well as some firms in the Cincinnati area.

He told KCAW on Tuesday afternoon that he’s happy to be included, but is also uneasy with not having gone through the same process as the other four finalists.

Exactly what will come from the Assembly’s upcoming discussion is unclear, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for the job to be offered to someone tonight. That conversation will take place behind closed doors, with a vote afterward in public.

KCAW News will stay at Centennial Hall after our live coverage of the Assembly’s regular meeting concludes. We’ll have details on the outcome of tonight’s discussion during tomorrow’s newscasts, and here on KCAW.org as soon as the story is ready.

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