Belen council rejects city manager

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The city of Belen is without a city manager after the council unanimously voted not to hire the mayor's nominee.

Mayor Jerah Cordova nominated Mark Threadgill, of Tularosa, who was most recently the assistant city manager for the city of Alamogordo from 2006 to 2012. With 22 years of government experience, Threadgill has a master's degree in public administration.

The negotiations broke down Tuesday during a special meeting concerning Threadgill's request for salary, the amount of paid time off and his severance package. While the council was willing to pay him $85,000 a year, Threadgill said Tuesday his best and final offer was $87,500, 200 hours of paid time off, which would be given to him immediately with an accrual rate of 7.69 hours per paid period, and three months of severance pay if he was fired without cause.

Cordova said Threadgill was his top choice of the 15 applicants and the six finalists who he and a committee interviewed in April. The mayor said he believed his nominee would bring a lot of knowledge and experience to Belen.

"I'm disappointed in the council's decision, but I respect their wishes," Cordova said. "Mr. Threadgill, I believe was the best choice. He would have brought a lot to the city of Belen."

Cordova wasn't the only one who thought Threadgill would have been a benefit to the city, but the cost was too high for Councilor David Carter, who was on the city manager's interview committee.

"I have no problem with your experience, education or doing the job," Carter told Threadgill. "What I do have concerns with is the price tag … We're on a shoestring budget. I'm still at the point where we can't afford you. It would be great to have you, but I don't think we can budget for it."

Councilor Frank Ortega said he had a problem with hiring Threadgill if contract negotiations were still ongoing.

"We shouldn't have put it on the agenda of we're still negotiating," Ortega said. "We have two options, we don't have to approve the contract and we don't have to approve him."

Councilor Wayne Gallegos said the problem he had with the mayor's nominee was that he didn't know him.

"All I have is this piece of paper (his resume)," Gallegos said. "I haven't heard anything what we're going to get on our end. That's what really bothered me."

Cordova told Gallegos that the city had done a background check on Threadgill, he had called his references as well as other people he had worked with in the past.

"Everything I have found he said he's done, he has," Cordova said. "If we're going to hire from the outside, we're not going to know who he is. You're never going to know that person 100 percent."

Councilor Darleen Aragon echoed Gallegos' concerns, saying she didn't know what Threadgill would do to better Belen.

"I understand where Councilor Gallegos and Councilor Ortega are coming from because we were not privy to the interview process," Aragon said. "All we know of you is what we see on this piece of paper."

In turn, Threadgill said, "That's all I know of you."

"But I'm not the one being interviewed," Aragon told him. "I won my position and you're the one being interviewed."

When asked by Ortega what he'd been doing since leaving Alamogordo two years ago, Threadgill said he hadn't been working, but rather "filling his bucket list."

After the council voted 4-0 not to hire Threadgill, he thanked the council for their consideration and wished them luck on their search for a new city manager.

After the meeting, about a dozen city employees who attended the meeting applauded the council and lined up to shake their hands.

"The next step in the process is to go back to the committee's recommendations and take a look who came in next best," Cordova said after the meeting. "I will do that immediately and hopefully have someone at the negotiating table by the end of the week."

Because the council approved a motion to transfer Mary Lucy Baca from the interim city manager position to the city's risk manager, the city is now without a city manager.

"We are without a city manager until the council can make a decision on either an interim or full-time city manager," Cordova explained.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.