Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mayor defends Egger appointment

Council wants job description before launching search for permanent hire


Dave Wilson

With the termination last month of former Sun Valley City Administrator Sharon Hammer, Mayor Dewayne Briscoe temporarily stepped into the role. It wasn't a job he was elected to do, nor one he is trained for.

Because a search for a replacement can take months, he said, he hired former City Administrator Virginia Egger as interim executive assistant to the mayor until a long-term employee is found.

But not everyone is pleased with Egger's appointment, prompting the mayor to offer a lengthy explanation of his decision during a City Council meeting Thursday, Feb. 16.

"Qualified people did not want to step into the situation that we have," Briscoe said, referring to an investigation that the city is undergoing. "Secondarily, qualified people did not want to step into an interim situation. They wanted the promise of a permanent position, which wasn't open."

Briscoe said some criticism he's heard about Egger, who served as city administrator five years ago, is that she advocated for political causes.

"The agreement I have with her is one that she will strictly administer the city, day-to-day operations, without ideology, without political considerations and strictly under my direction," he said.

"She, in my mind, was following the direction of a mayor [Jon Thorson] like a city administrator should," he added. "I expect her to follow my direction, my philosophy."

Egger said at the meeting that she has had time to reflect on what she did right and what she could do better.

"I'm fully aware that there is constructive criticism of me," she said. "And I appreciate candor, civility and professionalism in helping me do this job well."

Egger is being paid $60,000 for a six-month term.

At her departure, Hammer was being paid a yearly salary of $120,824, plus $1,125 for a monthly housing allowance.

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Former Sun Valley Mayor Dave Wilson, who lives in Ketchum but owns a home in Sun Valley, decried the city's "wanton spending" on hiring Egger.

"You hired an administrator who was extremely divisive ... [who pursued] city ordinances that the city was sued over and you had to pay people money back," he said. "Now, you're doing the same thing again and it's ridiculous. I'm sick and tired of you wasting my money. Get your house in order."

In 2006, the city was sued over the constitutionality of its "linkage" ordinance, which assessed building fees to cover the cost of housing some of the workers that new development generates.

Briscoe said that as soon as he took office, he began to discover policies and procedures that he wanted to change.

"We found there were significant problems within the city's administration that had to be corrected," he said.

Egger said she has already started working on some issues, including instituting signed time cards, creating leave requests and ensuring that city resources such as cell phones and computers are used for public good, "not for the employee," she said.

The city also is embarking on an inventory of its assets.

Briscoe said he had hoped to initiate a search for a permanent city administrator with the council's approval Thursday, but council members opted to hold a work session to establish a job description before launching the search. That meeting was scheduled for Monday, March 5.

In other city staff news, administrative receptionist David Blampied has retired. The city has hired Julia Kinsey-Lovey, who also will serve as assistant to the treasurer, city clerk and mayor. "She has multiple qualifications in a number of areas," Briscoe said.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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