Columbiana mayor disagrees with comment on hiring

COLUMBIANA The city’s mayor doesn’t agree with a statement made by the man seeking his position in the primary election.

David Spatholt said councilman and candidate for mayor Bryan Blakeman’s comment that the city hired Lance Willard as manager over 25 others who scored “higher” on the civil service commission test isn’t correct.

Blakeman had said at a recent council meeting he didn’t agree with the hiring based on the fact that Willard had not even passed the scoring test.

Each applicant was scored based on their experience, education and other criteria, and only those with a score of 10 or 12 were considered for the position.

Willard was one of roughly 70 to apply and competed for the job with one other city employee, police Chief Tim Gladis.

Spatholt had previously said Gladis and Willard were given interviews because they deserved that right as city employees.

He said Blakeman’s recent statement that 25 people “scored higher” isn’t correct, because none of the applicants were ranked.

“He made it sound like they ranked them. They just scored them,” he said.

He explained that once the civil service commission scored the applicants, the resumes were forwarded to the selection advisory committee, which consisted of himself, councilman Lowell Schloneger, (now former) councilman Bob Bieshelt and civil service commission member Rick Noel.

The resumes were then narrowed down and nine people were chosen for interviews, he said.

In the meantime, however, two of the nine accepted jobs elsewhere, leaving seven applicants for interviews.

“When we were done interviewing we couldn’t come to a conclusion and we brought it down to three names and we had a second interview with those three … he (Blakeman) was only involved in the second interview,” Spatholt said.

Blakeman confirmed he was only present for the second interview. He said he knew there was difficulty coming to an agreement.

He said it was Ted Andrzejewski who was being considered during an executive session on Jan. 22 and that council had agreed, by 5-1 to hire him, but the decision was not finalized.

He and councilman James King and Bieshelt were shocked and disappointed when Andrzejewski was not hired on Jan. 29. The vote was split 3-3 among council with Schloneger, Tom Ferguson and Mary Calinger against, and Spatholt casting the deciding vote to go with Willard instead.

Schloneger has said more than once that there was never a consensus and that statements made “by some on council” do not represent the entire council.

When asked to respond to Schloneger’s comment, Blakeman said it was true because it was Schloneger who refused to compromise during the Jan. 22 executive session.

“I said, ‘Let’s remove Bob’s pick, remove Lowell’s pick and rally around Noel’s suggestion,’” Blakeman said.

His reasoning was because Noel does no hiring within the city and “wouldn’t have a stake in it.”

Blakeman said recently that he stands by his comment, and reiterated again that Willard wasn’t in the group of applicants who scored a 10 or 12, and also wasn’t even in the group who scored slightly below that.

Noel disagreed.

“There was no ranking. We took some of the categories they (council) were looking at and gave them (applicants) some points based on that. There was no ranking,” he said.

He went on to say that the scoring system wasn’t even a requirement for the hiring, but was simply a “tool” used to help narrow down the selection process.

With 70-some applications, council wouldn’t have the time to interview that many people, he noted.

The scoring system was “just to give us a feeling for what we felt that the city was looking for. I don’t think it was the only criteria …. The scoring was just a way to give an initial first blush look at how the council may want to look at the information,” he said.

He declined to verify whether he had suggested Andrzejewski during the process.

Civil Service Commission member Patricia LaLonde also declined to comment.