All was well with Tuesday’s council meeting until Mayor Al Litman opened discussion on item 11, to approve the appointment of a new City Clerk.
Litman began the item with his nomination of current Deputy City Clerk, Tracy Beck, who has been in that position since Oct. 28, 2013. She has also been covering the position of the normal City Clerk, which was vacated by Cherry Lawson on April 21, 2015. At that time, the City Manager’s Assistant, Joy Eastwood, was appointed Interim City Clerk although she abruptly resigned a few short weeks later, resuming her former post for the City Manager.
Immediately receiving a second to Litman’s motion by Councilwoman Cindi Delaney, the item moved on to discussion, which began with Councilman Kraig Hafen, who was adamantly against her appointment, as she didn’t “score the highest” in the two-panel interview process that had taken place over the summer. Hafen called Litman out on the spot, asking why he chose a person who was clearly not the top scorer.
“I would justify my choice by selecting Ms. Beck because Ms. Beck has all of the experience necessary,” said Litman.
Hafen continued questioning the City of Mesquite’s Human Resource Manager, Gina Mendez, going through the results from the panels, eventually showing that the numbers that were provided to council members were incorrect in themselves.
Councilman Rich green made the first mention that the overall process is flawed, and that “there’s no reason to change… she’s doing a good job.”
According to Councilman George Rapson, someone “didn’t get the results they wanted from the first panel” and opted to conduct the second. Two interview panels were held over a month apart, and consisted of a total of 12 panelists. “This is a railroading ramrod deal that doesn‘t make any sense to me. Why did we waste our time in the interview process if it was going to be totally disregarded and ignored?”
Delaney came to the Mayor’s defense recounting an incident during the panel process where the City Clerk of North Las Vegas had scored Beck higher than the other candidates. Delaney then put City Manager Andy Barton on the spot, citing a statement he made to her that Mindee West, the overall highest scorer, wouldn’t have even made it to the final round of interviews had it not been asked of him to get her there. “She was not considered qualified,” Delaney said.
“I have known Mindee for a long, long time. I have known Tracy for a number of years. And, I guess I am of the opinion that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Councilman Geno Withelder via phone, in support of Litman’s nomination.
“This smacks of prior council. This blindsided me tonight. I was talking to some gentleman who said ‘I think a lot of Mindee,’ who I don’t know, by the way, except for the interview, and I said, what’s the problem? She scored the most, so what’s the problem. This is what happened in the last council with the last mayor,” raged Rapson, referring to several appointments former Mayor Susan Holecheck had made during her administration.
Eyes went back to Hafen as he then put the heat on Barton, asking why he had them go through this process if they were just going to put Beck in anyway. Barton’s response was that he thought it would be an advantage of the city to go through an open process.
Mendez did tell the council that municipal experience, which West does not have, is preferred, although not required, which was not what Barton had told Delaney in a previous conversation. “Mindee’s name was mentioned to me very, very abruptly, and I suggested that she be interviewed,” said Barton.
Hafen pleaded with Mayor Litman to reconsider his nomination, which was declined, and Beck was appointed to City Clerk by a vote of 3-2; Withelder, Green and Delaney voting in favor Beck as City Clerk and Hafen and Rapson opposing.
After the meeting, Litman agreed that the process was flawed, saying “the questions didn’t take into account the experience of the individual.”
Beck was in good spirits despite the nearly 30-minute heated discussions. “It is good that everything gets questioned and that there would be challenge. I am glad that I was supported in my work from June to the present time, and that it counted for something. There were a lot of things people don’t understand about how all this happened.”