Long Beach city manager search at a ‘standstill’

Council members have yet to make final choice; scrap vote for new acting city manager

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The search for a new city manager has yet to yield a result, seven months after former City Manager Jack Schnirman left to begin his term as Nassau County comptroller, City Council President Anthony Eramo said on Tuesday.

The search was launched in December, and a job ad was posted on Indeed and other websites. But on Tuesday, after residents pressed the five-member council for an update, Eramo said, “I think we’re at a standstill at this moment.”

“I think we do desperately need someone full-time, whether acting or not,” Eramo said. “I hope that the council can come together on an acting city manager at least very soon.”

Police Commissioner Mike Tangney has served as acting city manager since Schnirman’s departure. Tangney is not receiving an additional salary and continues to oversee the Police Department.

But those with knowledge of the search said it took on a sense of urgency after Tangney had indicated he intended to step down last week to focus on his responsibilities as police commissioner.

The council was expected to name Corporation Counsel Rob Agostisi as acting city manager at a special meeting on July 13, according to people with knowledge of the council’s deliberations, but scrapped that plan, and the item was not included on the agenda.

“My thinking was, let’s see how it goes with Rob, and if it works out, let’s make him city manager,” Eramo told the Herald before Tuesday’s council meeting. “He’s been helping Mike out a lot anyway, and his institutional knowledge, to me, is priceless.

“At the end of the day we only need three [council members] to agree,” Eramo added. “And I think most of my colleagues on the council want to move the city forward, and recognize we need someone in that position full time, and any actions to hinder that puts the city in a bad spot.”

Tangney has since agreed to stay on until another acting or permanent city manager is selected, officials said.

Word of last week’s special meeting sparked criticism among a number of residents, including State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Councilman John Bendo. Both called on the city to launch an independent investigation into recent separation payouts to a number of employees, including Schnirman and Agostisi.

Agostisi received a seperation payout because he had intended to leave for another job last year after 11 years of service. He has said that he attempted to give the money back, but was told that his payout could not be retracted.

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.”

“We don’t need an acting city manager. We need a permanent city manager,” he told the Herald. “I can’t tell you why this took so long — in my opinion, we could’ve hired a city manager months ago. We interviewed some excellent candidates, and there were professional city managers that had track records of managing cities and budgets, and in some cases, turning around ailing municipalities.”

Other council members said that with Tangney looking to step down from the role, however, an acting city manager was needed before the council decides on a final candidate.

“He’s serving full-time as police commissioner at the height of the summer season,” said Councilman Scott Mandel, who did not attend last Friday’s meeting. “Based on Mike saying it’s time for him to go back to the police commissioner’s spot, my understanding was we’d have another acting city manager while the search continued. No decision has been made for a permanent city manager.”

That search, council members said, was whittled down from about 50 applicants to three in April. Council members declined to identify them, but those with knowledge of the search said Agostisi was among the three finalists.

Eramo said that recent budget meetings set the selection process back.

“I think the process got sidetracked by the budget talks, and once that happened, we never really went back to it,” he said. “There were a couple of good candidates, but I think the salary demands were much higher than the residents of Long Beach are used to.”

“It’s an important position,” added Council Vice President Chumi Diamond. “We needed to make sure that we found the right person who has the right background and knowledge of city government.”

“All the candidates had valuable experience, both academic and municipal,” Mandel said, “or a good combination of the two.”

Councilwoman Anissa Moore said that two of the finalists live out of state.

“We found some impressive candidates,” she said. “After the budget review, it was clear that several council members were leaning toward one candidate. It’s my hope that we can finalize the search process and hire a city manager soon.”