The City Council is considering retaining a search firm if one of several candidates who applied for the city manager’s position earlier this year is not selected in the coming weeks, though members said that some progress had been made recently after the search came to a standstill over the summer.
“It’s still progressing,” Councilman Scott Mandel said on Monday. “Everybody who has applied is still interested. I’m encouraged by the responses — we’ve been fortunate to receive some interesting and qualified candidates.”
Police Commissioner Mike Tangney has served as acting city manager since former City Manager Jack Schnirman departed on Jan. 1, after he was elected Nassau County comptroller in November. Tangney is not receiving any additional salary, and continues to oversee the Police Department.
“I think we all recognize the need to get someone full-time,” council President Anthony Eramo said. “Tangney has done a great job, but it’s time for a full-time police commissioner and full-time city manager.”
The search for both a city manager and a new comptroller was launched in De-cember, and job ads were posted on Indeed and other websites. Council members said in July that the field of city manager hopefuls had been whittled down from about 50 to three in April.
Council members declined to identify the finalists, but those with knowledge of the search said that Corporation Counsel Rob Agostisi, who has worked for the city for 11 years, was among them.
Eramo said over the summer that budget talks in May had delayed the search process. The council was expected to name Agostisi acting city manager at a special meeting in July, after Tangney indicated that he intended to step down that month to focus on his responsibilities as police commissioner, according to people with knowledge of the council’s deliberations.
Those familiar with the search said that Agostisi initially had enough votes among council members to receive the appointment, but word of the special meeting had sparked criticism among a number of residents, including State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Councilman John Bendo.
On Facebook, Bendo said that the majority on the council had reconsidered “making such an important decision on such short notice, and at a time when so few residents would be able to voice their opinion on the matter.”
People at City Hall, however, said that Agostisi had “removed himself from consideration” and was no longer interested in the position. Council members and Agostisi declined to comment.
Last month, there was talk that the council was considering appointing Ed Eaton — a three-time city manager who served for 25 years — to take over for Tangney until a full-time replacement was hired, but that plan was scrapped.
Council members acknowledged public pressure to find a full-time city manager and comptroller. In May, Moody’s Investors Service maintained the city’s Baa1 rating, but dropped the city’s outlook from stable to negative and said that its credit quality was deteriorating. In a report issued last month, the agency said that the lack of a management team had only added to the city’s financial woes.
“Compounding the fiscal problems,” Moody’s wrote, “the city has been without a full-time city comptroller for a year and a city manager for the past eight months. An unstable management team has added financial pressure related to Long Beach’s credit profile, as a management team that does not stay in place long enough to understand the relevant issues and implement reforms poses a hurdle.”
Council members, however, said that talks have picked up in recent weeks, and members are looking at a number of finalists who were considered earlier in the search process, though they again declined to say exactly how many.
In July, Bendo told the Herald that the council had interviewed “some excellent candidates,” including “professional city managers that had track records of managing cities and budgets, and in some cases, turning around ailing municipalities.”
“The search process has been reinvigorated,” Bendo said Tuesday. “We’re talking to some people about interest and availability. You have to see if they’re still available — this has been a long process, and they may have moved on.”
Council Vice President Chumi Diamond said that council members had met as recently as Monday. “We’re hoping to make a move in the coming weeks,” she said. “The search is ongoing, and the council has been actively working together to ensure that we have a permanent city manager.”
If the finalists are no longer interested or available, council members said, they may advertise the job again or look into hiring a consulting or recruiting firm to aid in the search. “We’ve done some initial research, and we’re talking about it,” Eramo said. “We want to close the books on the finalists and then decide what our next step is going forward.”
Mandel said he anticipated holding additional interviews, whether in the existing candidate pool or additional applicants. “There has been some interest from people within the city, and we’re still focusing on a wider search,” he said.
“This is a critical priority for the council,” added Councilwoman Anissa Moore. “It is our hope that a final selection will be made soon. More importantly, that the individual will serve our residents to the best of his or her ability.”