City pays $20,000 to hire local lawyer Cathy DiCamillo |

City pays $20,000 to hire local lawyer Cathy DiCamillo

Hiring a headhunter to recruit a new city manager could cost the city of South Lake Tahoe nearly $20,000 – an investment councilmembers say is justified by the importance of the position.

“I believe it is crucial that we find the most qualified person around,” said Councilman Tom Davis. “I suspect we will have 80 to 100 applicants. You don’t want to sit there and screen all 100 of them. I’m not excited about spending a single dime, but I think we need a qualified person.”

The city paid David M. Griffith & Associates of Sacramento – the same firm they will probably hire for city manager recruitment – approximately $15,000 in 1998 to recruit a city attorney. In the end, longtime South Shore resident Catherine DiCamillo was selected for the job.

“We wanted the best possible candidate for the city attorney position. We didn’t even know a local attorney was interested at the time,” said Councilman Hal Cole. “The city manager and attorney are so important, it would be a lot more than a $20,000 mistake if we hired someone with a poor background, not qualified for the job.”

Cole admitted he had trouble spending $20,000 on consultant services, but said the importance of the city manager position made the investment worthwhile.

“Yes, it sounds like a lot of money, but the process has proved itself in the past,” Cole said. “The thorough background checks and the filtering process are really important.”

City Manager Kerry Miller, who tendered his resignation to City Council Tuesday, said high-priced recruiting firms have become an industry standard. In the case of the city attorney, he said the $15,000 investment was an important step toward legitimizing City Council’s final choice.

“The idea of recruitment is to look at the talent pool. Sometimes you’re fortunate enough that your in-house talent pool offers a superior candidate for the position,” Miller said. “As far as the city attorney was concerned, it was worth the expense just so everyone could be confident she was the best person we could attract.”

Miller said David M. Griffith & Associates charge a standard fee of approximately $15,000 for conducting the search and about $5,000 for advertising and other expenses.

“This is an opportunity a city council does not have very often. The last time they hired a city manager was in 1987,” Miller said. “It needs to be done very thoughtfully because it is truly an investment in the future.”

Although Councilman Bill Crawford agreed with City Council on Tuesday to let a subcommittee negotiate a contract with the Sacramento-based recruiting firm, he said he would prefer giving city staff members a chance first.

“If you have people on board who have worked hard, they deserve an opportunity,” Crawford said. “If that doesn’t work out, then you’re in a position to look around. I think we have a very capable person here – assistant city manager Sue Schlerf – we should find out if she fills the bill. I’d give her a chance because I think it’s important to reward loyal people.”

City Council will name an interim city manager and review a potential contract with the recruiting firm during the Oct. 5 meeting.

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