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Grosse Pointe Shores

August 9, 2012

Shores narrows city manager search to three finalists

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — A special City Council meeting Aug. 1 ignited a bit of controversy because a discussion regarding interviews with city manager candidates was on the agenda.

While some residents and at least one official thought the council was trying to sneak a major decision past them by having a special meeting to discuss this subject, Mayor Ted Kedzierski insisted from the outset that was never the case. He said Aug. 1 had already been set as a Finance Committee meeting night, and one of the council members wanted to discuss lighting infrastructure upgrades with the entire council. Because the full council was scheduled to be at City Hall, Kedzierski said, they decided to have a special meeting after the 6 p.m. Finance Committee session in order to discuss a couple of topics: the city manager search and the work of the Move to Macomb Committee.

“It was not scheduled to vote on” city manager candidates, the mayor said, calling it “a very open and transparent process.”

Kedzierski said the four-month contract with interim City Manager Mark Wollenweber — who was appointed in March — had technically expired July 20, although Wollenweber is still serving the Shores under the terms of that agreement.

City Council member Robert Barrette, a member of the city manager search committee along with City Council members Bruce Bisballe and Daniel Schulte, said there were 17 applicants who filed for the position. Bisballe said they interviewed eight of the leading candidates by phone, and from those interviews, Schulte said, they arrived at three finalists.

The finalists under consideration are Wollenweber, Jeffrey Bremer and Joseph Merucci. Wollenweber is a former longtime St. Clair Shores resident who now lives in Burtchville, and his experience includes serving as interim city manager in Ferndale, city administrator in Grosse Pointe Woods, and city manager in Huntington Woods and St. Clair Shores. Bremer, of Clinton Township, is Birmingham’s assistant director of public services, and a former city manager in Fraser and city administrator in Lathrup Village, among other positions. Merucci’s résumé includes serving as the village manager of Fowlerville and city manager of Clawson and Pleasant Ridge; he lives in Clawson.

Schulte criticized Kedzierski for including Wollenweber on certain emails pertaining to the city manager search because he’s a candidate for that position. He also suggested that the mayor shouldn’t have been socializing with Wollenweber, as was the case when Wollenweber entertained Shores employees and officials at a party at his home a couple of weeks ago. Kedzierski said he needs to talk to Wollenweber about city business and insisted, “No candidate had an unfair advantage” in the city manager search. He said he hasn’t called any of the applicants aside from Wollenweber, and those calls have been related to regular city activities.

Resident Dr. Robert Lee called on the council to bring the finalists back for the next regular council meeting Aug. 21 so that residents would have a chance to ask them questions.

“Everybody on this council campaigned on lines of openness and transparency,” he said.

But Bisballe noted that the search committee had already held a prior public meeting July 24 to interview finalists at City Hall. Some council members, including the mayor, were also in attendance for that session. Bisballe said they had told the candidates this was the only interview they were going to conduct.

City Council member Robert Gesell, who also attended the interview meeting, said anyone who wanted to get to know the candidates had an opportunity during that session.

“How many times are we going to spin our wheels doing this?” he asked.

Council members debated whether to have the finalists come to the Aug. 21 council meeting and whether to allow them to address officials and residents or enable residents to ask questions of them. They voted in favor of Schulte’s motion, which included inviting the three finalists to the meeting and giving them a chance to speak for a maximum of five minutes, but not to allow questions from the audience. Because one of the candidates asked for privacy to not jeopardize his current position, City Council member Kay Felt said Shores leaders need to make it clear to the finalists that their decision to speak or not speak at the meeting wouldn’t be held against them. City Council member Alexander Ajlouni — who earlier said he was satisfied with having the search committee conduct the interviews — cast the sole vote against inviting the finalists to speak at the Aug. 21 meeting.

The council is likely to vote on a permanent city manager Aug. 21. That meeting was scheduled, at press time, to start at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers at City Hall. For more information, visit www.gpshoresmi.gov.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.