Problems with process cause confusion with AP’s search - The Mena Star: News

Problems with process cause confusion with AP’s search

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Posted: Wednesday, December 27, 2017 5:52 pm

As the Mena Advertizsing and Promotion Comission looks to fill the position being vacated by Donnie Crane, who has been at the helm of directing AP’s marketing, differing opinions and communication issues may have caused a brief upset for the process.

After a tense AP meeting, commissioners were successful in validating two applications for the position, even if there were disagreements.

One application, belonging to the Mena-Polk County Chamber of Commerce, was initially thrown out by a portion of the hiring committee.

Commission and Committee Chair Rodeny Rowland and committee member and commissioner Terri Nugent were both told by a third party legal counsel that based on how the envelope was addressed, the chamber did not qualify.

“We asked for a third party’s opinion because we wanted someone removed from the process and not involved to give us an unbiased opinion,” Nugent said.

Rowland said the decision to run an advertisement seeking Request for Qualifications (RFQs) was based on precedent.

“Our current marketing director had given his notice in the fall, so we scheduled a committee meeting for that decision process,” Rowland said. “I made the decision in the committee meeting to run an advertisement for a process we have used in the past, a request for qualifications (RFQ), before bringing it to the full commission. 

“My goal was to expedite the process,” Rowland continued. “We used this process the last two times we hired. The last time, Terri (Nugent) ended up doing the job as a volunteer for seven to nine months. I didn’t want that to happen again.”

“The chair (Rowland) and I sought a third party attorney’s opinion, who said based on the way the chamber’s response to the RFQ was addressed, that it was a proposal, it should be thrown out,” Neugent said.

The chamber’s submission was addressed as a ‘Request for Proposal.’

After learning in a committee meeting the chamber’s submission would not be accepted, committee member James Earl Turner sought legal advice for the situation from the city attorney and the municipal league.

“Those are the legal counsels opinion we should seek out. The municipal league researches things like this and gets the opinion of the attorney general,” Turner said. “The labeling or addressing is semantics, even though technically it said in the advertisement to mark it as ‘request for qualifications.’”

Turner was informed by the legal counsel he obtained the commission is not obligated to obtain RFQs for hiring administrative positions.

 “That doesn’t man we can’t include an RFQ in the process of filling the position, but the only entities  required to go through that specific process is cities, schools if they are trying to obtain services from attorneys, surveyors, contractors, construction management and interior decorators. I think those are the ones  listed.”

Turner brought the answers he received back to the committee meeting.

However, before Tuner was able to share the information in a meeting, Neugent, on behalf of Rowland, sent an email and letter to the chamber, which said their response to the RFQ did not meet the requirements. 

“The committee or commission did not vote to throw out the chamber’s submittal. In fact, several of us indicated we would like to see it,” Turner said. “We had set a meeting up to review the qualifications and were able to review both because the chamber’s packet had not been mailed back to them.”

When Neugent and Rowland came to believe the chamber’s packet did not meet specification for the RFQ, they said they did not contact the chamber other than through email and postal service.

Neither Neugent nor Rowland could offer additional reasons for why communication was limited to the rejection email.

“It wasn’t addressed properly,” Neugent said. “We were following the request for proposal.”

“I think the fact that one submittal was worded as a ‘proposal’ instead of using the word ‘qualification’, especially when we only had two responses, I felt like like, and other commissioners agreed, that we should go a head and consider it,” Turner explained.  “We should make decision based on what is best for the city, and to me that means we should consider both of them.”

Turner feels the process is now “back on track” and feels there is value added to the commission when people have different ideas.

“Everyone who is on the commission wants it to be successful, and for the best outcome to be for the city and our area,” Turner said.

Rowland said he understands the differing viewpoints.

“I think in any process where you involve several people you will have a difference of opinions,” Rowland said. “I think we have learned from what happened-as far as what is the process, how do we follow the process, what can we do to make it easier for everybody. I understand it is a long way to get there, but I think the end result is what it needed to be and hopefully in the future we can streamline it a little bit.”

Rowland said changes to the hiring process in the future may include omitting the RFQ process and involving the commission as a whole for publishing notices and advertisements.

Neugent said even though she may have a differing view, she supports decisions at which committees and the commission arrive.

“We are not always going to agree and having a different way of looking at things is a good thing,” she said. “A vote may not go in a direction I would prefer, but that doesn’t mean I’m not supportive or cooperative.”

To maintain equity through out the process, the committee only looked at the qualifications portion of the chamber’s application, leaving the proposal information in the envelope.

Both submittals will be invited to interview after the first of the year, commissioners said.

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