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May 6, 2014

City to hire manager-search consultant

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The Oneonta Common Council is poised to hire a consultant to help search for a second city manager.

Dominic “Nick” Mazza of Pittsford was interviewed Monday by the council’s Human Resources Committee.

Mazza will bill at $175 an hour, with an estimated 60 to 70 hours of service, up to $12,250, according to his proposal, which called for the city to pay his mileage, meals and hotel expenses and other costs of the search, such as advertising and hosting of final candidates.

The council, which will meet at City Hall, 258 Main St., at 7 tonight, will consider motions to hire Mazza, to approve personnel actions and further municipal improvement projects.

Also, a 6:30 p.m. reception is scheduled to present the city’s Trailblazer award to Jennifer Stanton, an Oneonta High School senior. The city’s Commission on Community Relations and Human Rights selected Stanton for the award, which is presented annually to a woman who has made outstanding contributions to the community.

Mazza, a principal and municipal consultant with The Bonadio Group, has experience in managing local governments in the state, including 25 years as chief budget officer for Livingston County, the city of Cortland and Cayuga County.

In response to committee questions, Mazza said he has conducted searches for city managers in municipalities similar to Oneonta, including Ogdensburg, Canandaigua and Cortland.

Oneonta initiated a search after Michael H. Long, city manager since Oct. 1, 2012, announced his retirement in late March. Long is Oneonta’s first city manager, a position created when voters approved a revised City Charter in 2011.

This spring, Long’s standing with the council was in doubt, and he and the city reached a separation agreement April 1. Long’s last day as city manager will be May 29.

In the previous search, applicants were sought nationally, and the city paid about $22,324 to The Mercer Group in Atlanta for consulting services, an amount that included a $15,000, plus expenses, which were capped at $8,000. The firm provided a two-year guarantee that if the city manager left for any reason, it would conduct another search at a cost of the capped $8,000 expenses only, city officials said.

The Human Resources Committee had multiple recommendations to talk with Mazza, said Southard, council member of the Seventh Ward. The previous search was a learning experience, Southard said, and considering The Mercer Group’s work “is a little like Monday-morning quarterbacking.”

The committee was impressed with Mazza’s background and contacts in the Northeast, Southard said.

“He has some avenues to bring us some qualified candidates,” Southard said. “We want to make sure we get the right candidate.”

Mazza told the committee that good candidates won’t jeopardize their jobs by sending resumes to post office boxes or otherwise submit applications without a shield of confidentiality. To refine the search, Mazza said he wants to meet further with the committee to define the position and identify priorities about skills and characteristics of a desired candidate.

Mazza said he would conduct background and reference checks after about three final candidates are identified.

Qualities in Oneonta’s favor include its good financial status, good credit rating and no apparent personnel issues, Mazza said. Offering $110,000 to $120,000, plus benefits, would work, he said, and filling the position by September would be possible, though the city would need to be willing to negotiate and be flexible about the transition.

Council members attending Monday’s meeting included Maureen Hennessy, First Ward; David Rissberger, Third Ward; Michael Lynch, Fourth Ward; Madolyn Palmer, Fifth Ward; and Chip Holmes, Eighth Ward. Members Larry Malone, Third Ward; and Bob Brzozowski, Seventh Ward; were absent.