November 26, 2014

Elyria
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Oberlin manager finalists meet and greet public

City Council continues background investigation

OBERLIN — City residents got a chance Friday night to meet the two finalists for the job of city manager and will get a second opportunity this morning.
City Council wants to get input before it decides whom to hire for the position, which pays more than $85,000.
Meanwhile, the city continues to wait for additional information from search firm Joshua Kim and Associates about the backgrounds of both finalists, who have resigned their former positions, said City Council President Daniel Gardener.
Marcia L. Conner left her job as city manager of Durham, N.C., three years ago, and Charles V. Bowman resigned his job as community development director in Kent last year.
Durham Mayor William Bell told The Chronicle that Conner is “an ethical person, very sharp and very smart.”
However, both Bell and the current city manager, Patrick Baker, said there were some missteps after Conner was tapped in 2001 to become city manager of Durham, which has a population of 210,000.
The first police chief hired by Conner never took office after it was learned a background check performed by a firm hired by Conner did not unearth a domestic incident in his past, Baker said.
Conner also was criticized for granting no-bid contracts to former associates, said Baker, former assistant city attorney. There was no violation of the law because the power to set monetary limits on certain no-bid contracts rests with the city manager, Baker said.
“I personally think the world of her,” Baker said. “She’s one of the hardest-working and smartest individuals I’ve met — male, female, black or white.”
When asked if Conner was asked to resign, Bell said a charter change reduced the number of members of Durham Council, and “there were new people who came in that obviously wanted to see things operate in a different fashion.”
“She probably wasn’t ready to be thrown into a city of Durham’s size, given the things Durham was going through,” Bell said.
Even after she left her job, Conner stayed in Durham and helped direct a campaign for the John Avery Boys and Girls Club to raise $40,000, Bell said.
Bowman, by contrast, appears to have had a smooth run. There were no allegations of impropriety while he served as community development director in Kent from 2000 to 2006. But Kent Mayor John Fender said Bowman and the new city manager, Dave Ruller, did not see eye to eye.
“Our city manager was going in a different direction and felt he wanted his own team,” Fender said.
Gardener said Oberlin Council is aware of the circumstances regarding both candidates, and its consultant continues to interview people who worked with and under both Conner and Bowman.
Conner, 53, also served as assistant city manager of Austin, Texas, and budget director for Arlington County, Va. She operates a consulting firm and has a one-year contract to serve as manager of Atlantic Beach, S.C.
Bowman runs Charta Consultants, is president of CDJ Consultants and serves as vice president and treasurer of Ohio Valley Music, a fledgling guitar manufacturer.
Bowman, 48, former city manager in the cities of Geneva and Xenia, also teaches master of public administration classes at Cleveland State University.
Both candidates have master’s degrees, Conner from the University of Cincinnati and Bowman from Cleveland State University. Bowman is a doctoral student at Cleveland State.
Oberlin’s former City Manager Rob DiSpirito, who served in the post for more than a decade, left in January to take a similar position in Dunedin, Fla.
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.