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With decision shrouded in secrecy, city manager update promised Dec. 20

City of Columbia officials plan to make an announcement about the new city manager Dec. 20.

That information, provided by Sixth Ward Council member Betsy Peters on Tuesday, is the only direct piece of information provided by city officials since the search began in June for a replacement for City Manager John Glascock, who retires Jan. 14.

Peters would not say if the announcement will be of finalists for the position or a person selected to fill the powerful position that manages day-to-day city operations and has hiring authority over all city employees.

Peters would provide no further details. Other council members questioned about the search following Monday night’s regular council meeting or in emails on Tuesday also declined to comment on any aspect of the search.

That posture keeps with council members’ consistent refusal to comment on the search, including such routine details as how many candidates applied, what timeline the council had for making a selection and whether finalists would be available for public appearances.

Council members consistently said the search was being managed by Mayor Brian Treece, who has not provided any details to the Missourian despite being asked several times this fall.

The absence of public notice about the search process has led to widespread speculation in the community about who might be in line for the job and how the process is playing out behind closed doors.

The refusal to comment or engage the public in the search for a new city manager is in stark contrast to the process that preceded the July 2019 selection of Glascock for the same position.

Then, the public was kept informed throughout the interviewing process and also was informed of the top candidates toward the closure of the process.

Glascock announced his pending retirement from the position June 10 after three years in the position.

The day of that announcement, Treece said the council had begun preliminary talks about the search for Glascock’s replacement.

“We expect to finalize that plan maybe as early as the next City Council meeting and start that citizen engagement process,” Treece said at the time.

Treece said there would be a nationwide search, and the news release said the city would get help from a consultant.

In the intervening months, Missourian reporters have sought information from the mayor’s office but have been rebuffed.

Glascock was appointed city manager in July 2019 following an eight-month search that included public involvement.

In January 2019, council members approved an agreement with CPS HR Consulting to lead the search. It culminated in public meetings, an online survey and in-person meetings with council members and city stakeholders, according to previous Missourian reporting.

By July 1 that year, council members had whittled the list of 33 candidates to Glascock and Jim Palenick, the city administrator for Racine, Wisconsin.

The two introduced themselves and took questions from the public prior to the final selection and fielded questions from journalists in a separate appearance.

Roy Lovelady, who is running for the Third Ward council seat, voiced concern for the private process.

“When the last city manager was selected, it was an open process. With so much at stake with City Council positions changing, why would the this process be so secretive?” Lovelady said.

Missourian reporters once again sought to get information about the search process by speaking to council members following Monday night’s regular council meeting:

Andrea Waner, Second Ward City Council member, said that the process is closed to the public.

First Ward City Councilperson Pat Fowler and Fifth Ward Councilperson Matt Pitzer both said that the council was not prepared to make comments.

Treece said he had no information for the public and added that he could not comment.

Fourth Ward Councilperson Ian Thomas said that he could not comment on the process nor say why council members could not comment on why they cannot provide information.

Third Ward Councilperson Karl Skala could not be reached for comment and did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

Joseph Beaudet contributed to this report.