Search for New City Manager Hotly Debated

OCEAN CITY- A couple of unexpected items were brought up during this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting including an accusation of a council member suggesting to suspend the national search for a new city manager as well as a substantial pay hike for Fire Chief Chris Larmore.

As a motion was called to adjourn this week’s Mayor and City Council work session, Councilman Joe Hall brought up a discussion that might have or have not happened behind closed doors during a closed session concerning the national search to be conducted to recruit a new city manager.

Joe Hall said that Councilman Doug Cymek had brought up the possibility to suspend the national search for the city manager and to instead have it remain as a local search, which Cymek denied.

“He [Cymek] suggested that we should suspend the national search and I think that was an open session discussion,” Joe Hall said. “I want to clarify that I stand by my vote for the search. I have clearly said that I feel that the local talent is here to serve but the national search is the process that will work and I think that needs to be clarified because there is confusion out in the public.”

Cymek asserted that he never suggested suspending the national search for city manager, and pointed out that he was one of the council members that had supported the national search since the beginning.

On September 19, Councilwoman Mary Knight stated that in closed session she had made a motion to advertise the position of city manager nationally as well as locally. The motion was voted down in a 4-3 vote, with councilmembers Joe Hall, Brent Ashley, Jim Hall, and Margaret Pillas in opposition.

“At that point there was additional discussion with a candidate that the majority had already come up with,” Knight disclosed at that time.

The candidate was Public Works Director Hal Adkins, who had been asked to consider filling the position. A couple weeks ago, Adkins officially turned the job down.

Last week’s Mayor and City Council legislative meeting began with a surprise as Council President Jim Hall asked for a motion to advertise both nationally and locally for a new city manager. Without hesitation, the council unanimously voted to approve the motion.

“We [Cymek, Knight, and Lloyd Martin] were voted down on that [national search], and for some reason the majority came back and reversed that vote much to our surprise last week,” Cymek said this week. “I am not in any means suggesting that we stop that.”

Cymek said the discussion during closed session that Joe Hall seemed to be referring to was his suggestion to bring previous city manager Dennis Dare back to assist in the recruitment and training of the individual who will fill the open position.

“He [Dare] will be continuing based on the legal work,” Cymek pointed out. “He will continue to draw a paycheck until his retirement…very clearly you [Joe Hall] were against that idea.”

Joe Hall agreed that he was “very much against that idea.” He continued to declare that Cymek had suggested suspending the national search because it is an expensive process.

“The way you presented it was that it was an expenditure process and you suggested that there was some kind of person [local] that was available to serve,” he said.

At that point Council President Jim Hall stepped in and said it was obvious the two council members have different “philosophy” on what was said during that day’s closed session but the correct thing to do is move ahead.

“I don’t think we are all happy about the situation that we are in, or how we got here, but I think that now we are where we are, it is time to move forward,” Mayor Rick Meehan agreed. “I think we all need to work together at this point in time to move forward and to do the right thing for Ocean City and the future.”

Another unscheduled agenda item this week was the announcement Fire Chief Chris Larmore has accepted the town’s offer to be paid as an employee of Ocean City. He will come at a grade 18 pay level at a salary of $127,700 and that is retroactive to July 1.

Since Larmore took over as Fire Chief, he has been paid a dollar a year. Since taking the job he has made numerous progressive changes in updating and consolidating the three divisions of Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company, Fire/EMS, and the Office of the Fire Marshal, under one organizational structure of the Ocean City Fire Department.

“We are very proud that Chris has accepted this job for us and did it free for three years,” Jim Hall said.