Givens has misgivings: City manager choice withdraws

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette A full house showed up at the Hancock City Council special meeting Wednesday, with many residents offering support for Barry Givens

HANCOCK — Barry Givens, the unanimous choice for city manager, has withdrawn from contract negotiations, but City Council members aren’t ready to give up yet, even though they apparently do not know what caused Givens’ action.

The Personnel Committee was working with Givens to negotiate the terms of his employment, when he recently sent an email withdrawing from negotiations, said Mayor Lisa McKenzie, a member of the committee along with Ted Belej and Paul LaBine.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Givens said unanswered questions and a bottom range salary in the initial contract were primary factors.

“I just got to the point where I felt like we were at very different viewpoints on the position, the compensation and the benefits and I just felt like I no longer wished to pursue it,” he said. “My impression of the position and the compensation and benefits versus what was said in the ad and what I felt I could bring with my abilities and skills and the work that needed to be done seemed very different from what the committee seemed willing to do.”

At the meeting, McKenzie said Givens did not clearly indicate his reasons for withdrawing his application.

“We all want Barry Givens in that position as well, but we need to have Mr. Givens negotiate with us,” she said.

Wednesday’s special meeting was initially called to go over the other candidates interviewed and make a second pick.

However, many of the community members filling the room and some of the council members were unwilling to move on so quickly. After several public comments praising Givens as the right choice and asking what caused the withdrawal be identified and fixed, the discussion shifted to how to bring him back to the table.

“He is our candidate. He is the candidate we stick with,” said John Haeussler, who stepped away from his council seat to make a public comment. “We identify the problem and we fix it,” he said, citing Givens’ community and council support.

Haeussler said he thought something might have happened during the closed meeting between Givens and the committee that led to the withdrawal.

“If we offended him in some manner, he didn’t tell us,” McKenzie said.

She said Givens had not returned her calls, but she would be willing to step back from the committee.

In spite of his lack of response to inquiries from council members, Givens told the Gazette he is willing to discuss the matter further.

“I’m open to any suggestions or ideas, but at the point of where we are now, I have told them (my answer) was no, based on what I have seen,” he said.

At the meeting, Belej suggested forming a new Personnel Committee, this time with Ron Blau, Haeussler and LaBine leading the negotiations. LaBine was not present at the committee’s meeting with Givens preceding his withdrawal.

The move was quickly approved with discussion of returning to the other candidates tabled for next week’s meeting.

“I’m hoping we can have a seat at the table again and get this done and make everybody happy,” LaBine said.

“My sincere hope is that we can at least bring Barry back to the table and that we can negotiate with him in good faith and try to get this resolved, because it’s clear from the intention of the council from the get-go, from the unanimous vote and from the number of people that were here in support of him tonight at the meeting that he is not only desired by the elected officials, he is desired by the residents of this community to have him as our next city manager,” Haeussler said.