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Should Council Interview Candidates For City Manager In Public Or Private?

Jan 25, 2018

Interim City Manager Nancy Peterson has extended her contract through mid-February.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

The four candidates vying to be Unalaska’s next city manager will visit the island next week.

Should the City Council interview them in public or behind closed doors?

That question sparked some confusion Tuesday, after Jim Paulin challenged councilors’ decision to hold the interviews in executive session.

“I believe that’s a flagrant violation of the Alaska Open Meetings Act," said Paulin, an Unalaska resident and Dutch Harbor Fisherman reporter. "You had your other ones in open session. You should have this one [in open session].”

Paulin was referring to the city’s last round of interviews, which took place in public and led to the hiring of former manager Dave Martinson. But before that, officials say Unalaska had held interviews behind closed doors.

Interim City Manager Nancy Peterson said either way is legal, although she and Mayor Frank Kelty agreed to check with City Attorney Brooks Chandler before moving forward.

Pending Chandler's approval, Councilor Dennis Robinson said he wants to conduct the interviews in private.

“I don’t want the opportunity for anything to distract us from the real goal of hiring a city manager,” he said.

Robinson didn’t say why opening interviews to the public might be distracting, but most councilors agreed. Only Councilor Shari Coleman said she’d lean towards a public process.

“I’m happy with open interviews," she said. "I have no problem with that.”

The council will make its final decision after receiving advice from the city attorney. But no matter what, Mayor Kelty assured community members that they’ll have an opportunity to meet the candidates.

“The public has a chance to interchange with those candidates when we have our reception with them,” he said.

That public meet-and-greet is scheduled for Feb. 2. The council is slated to select a candidate and make a job offer Feb. 4.