Council Selects Firm to Search for Next City Manager

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Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff at a 2016 community event.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

Newport Beach City Council selected an executive search firm this week to start the hunt for a new city manager.

In March, the city announced City Manager Dave Kiff’s intention to retire toward the end of year. Some unverified reports claim that several Council members pressured Kiff into departing before his contract is up in April 2019, concerns that many residents have raised during recent Council meetings. Despite the public opposition, Council voted 7-0 on April 10 to amend Kiff’s employment agreement to end on Aug. 31.

Following Council’s direction, the city clerk conducted the Request For Qualifications process. She solicited proposals from nine executive search firms and received three responses.

On Tuesday, Council voted 5-2, with Council members Diane Dixon and Jeff Herdman dissenting, to select Roberts Consulting Group as the company tasked with finding potential candidates for Kiff’s replacement.

“We are not ready to begin this process,” Dixon said.

They first need to determine what they’re looking for in the next city manager, which should include public input, she commented. She also suggested Council interview the firms before selection, and also would like to see responses from more than three firms.

She also recommended allowing the city clerk to rely upon human resources for administrative support services only, which was ultimately included in the approved vote.

Dixon first made a motion to table the item until the next Council meeting in two weeks.

The motion failed 4-3, with Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill, and councilman Kevin Muldoon and Scott Peotter voting no.

Muldoon made a substitute motion to select Rancho Mirage-based Roberts group, which the majority of Council agreed with in the vote.

Roberts proposal was the fastest at 13 weeks and the highest base fee, but with no additional costs, it landed in the middle at $25,000. The company has more than 20 years in recruitment experience.

CPS HR Consulting offered a timeline of 16 weeks for a fee of $17,000, not to exceed $23,000. Avery Associates estimated 15 weeks for a $19,900 fee plus costs, not to exceed $27,900.

According to the staff report, the executive search firm prepares a recruitment brochure, conducts a nationwide marketing campaign through a variety of mediums, screens applications, conducts preliminary interviews and reference checks, and recommends qualified candidates to the City Council.

All three suggest similar steps and timelines, and style of approach O’Neill pointed out.

“I’m comfortable moving forward with this,” O’Neill said. “It strikes me that these folks are exactly who we ought to be working with if the concern is our staff is not the expert on this.”

A variety of comments from the public included agreeing that Council should interview the firms before selection, the vote should be postponed, the process has not been transparent, and, once again, support for keeping Kiff on board.

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  1. It’s an absolute joke that our City Council says they are recruiting a search firm. They already have their guy and this is all scripted by the Gand of Four!
    The Gang of Four
    Need not serve us any more
    They spend too much of our money
    And that ain’t funny
    They make back door deals
    Lie, cheat and steal
    They have no shame
    Yet they are all to blame
    Peeman, Puffy, Lil Goon and O’NO
    Really need to GO

    When in doubt…Vote the Gang of Four Out!