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City of Kent to spend $60,000 to find new CAO, finance director

The Kent City Council voted 5-1 to spend up to $60,000 on a consultant to conduct a nationwide search to find a new chief administrative officer (CAO) and a finance director.

The council agreed with Mayor Suzette Cooke's request to hire a consultant to help fill the two high profile positions. Dana Ralph, Dennis Higgins, Bill Boyce, Deborah Ranniger and Brenda Fincher voted Tuesday night to approve hiring Karras Consulting, of Olympia. Les Thomas opposed it. Jim Berrios had an excused absence.

Boyce said when he served on the Kent School Board it used consultants twice to find new superintendents.

"They are specialized into knowing the market, knowing what's out there and knowing the top candidates," Boyce said about consulting firms. "Their reputation relies on bringing the top candidates to, in this case the city of Kent, for the two positions. At the end of the day, the mayor has the right to fill her staff and we want to make sure we get the right people for the right job."

Both jobs are filled by interim hires. Tom Brubaker has served as interim CAO since John Hodgson retired in May. Paula Barry is the interim finance director after Bob Nachlinger retired in January.

The $60,000 will come out of the city's general fund. Barry said the money exists because of savings from vacant positions.

Thomas said the money to hire a consultant could have been included in the city budget for 2014 because Hodgson left last spring and Nachlinger told the council last fall he would be retiring.

"That would have been up to you," Cooke said. "I presented my budget before that time occurred. Quite honestly, I don't think any of us were even thinking about it at that time. We were looking at all of the other budget issues."

Lorraine Patterson, city human resources director, told the council she received only 22 applications from advertising the finance director position locally and none of them had experience as a finance director in a comparable city.

Karras will contact people already employed about coming to Kent, Patterson said. She added the company has found new hires for the governor's office, King County, Sound Transit and the Seattle mayor's office.

The pay range for a new CAO in Kent is $121,200 to $169,668 per year in salary, according to the city of Kent 2014 pay rate list. The range for a finance director is $106,776 to $149,496.

"The salary is at a range where it is competitive," Patterson said in response to a question from Fincher about whether the incentives are enough for someone to leave their job to come to Kent. "We have a good package. It's not the highest but it is competitive. That should not be a problem. Actually, the state pays less than us and so if you are able to recruit from the state, we look really good compared to the state."

It will take about 12 weeks for Karras to find candidates for the jobs, Patterson said.

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