Consultants, Colton and Covina

Covina’s newest City Manager, Daryl Parrish, is scheduled to begin on June 1.

In this story, which ran in The San Bernardino Sun, it discusses a “perception problem” that may have been created when Parrish used $15,000 from Cotlon’s discrentionary funds to hire a consultant to work for the city.

Meanwhile, Covina was using the same consultant to interview city manager applicants. In the end, Parrish was selected for Covina.

Councilman Kevin Stapleton, however, said that Covina used the consultant back in the 1990s when they first hired the previous city manager, Paul Philips, and that the consultant had no say in their selection of Parrish.

Here’s the story:

Colton consultant also worked for Covina, which just hired Colton ‘s city manager
Sun, The (San Bernardino, CA) – Monday, May 25, 2009
Author/Byline: Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer
Section: News

COLTON – A consultant hired to provide ethics training and other services for the City Council is the same man the Covina City Council used to recruit its new city manager.

Colton City Manager Daryl Parrish was one of 59 applicants who vied for the Covina job and ended up being Covina’s top choice.

The recruiter who narrowed the field from 59 to about 15 is Bill Mathis, a psychologist that specializes in management psychology. Mathis is one of about seven recruiters in the state that helps cities find candidates for high-profile job openings.

In October 2007 Parrish used his $25,000 discretionary fund, which doesn’t require council approval, to award a $15,000 contact to Mathis to aid the council in developing a “norms and ethics policy,” goal setting and provide other services until April 30, city reports say. In August, the council voted 4-3 to extend the contract to June 30 and increase Mathis’ compensation to an amount not to exceed $50,000, reports say.

The situation has raised the eyebrows of some residents who say Parrish and Mathis should have disclosed the issue to the public to avoid any perception of backdoor dealings.

“My understanding is that he ( Parrish ) has been looking for a job elsewhere for a while,” said Frank Navarro, a resident and member of the political group Colton First, which is often critical of city leaders. “It raises questions for anybody who has an interest in the community. Did he use taxpayer money to improve his chances of obtaining a job elsewhere?”

Parrish denies any ill intent in hiring Mathis. In the wake of scandals involving former councilmembers – including Ramon Hernandez and Donald Sanders – Parrish said Councilman David Toro directed him to formulate some sort of ethics system the council would follow and the idea was supported by Mayor Kelly Chastain.

Toro said his intent was to implement a policy that would set consequences if elected officials engaged in unethical activity, but such a system never came to fruition.

The recommendation to use Mathis for ethics training came from the city’s law firm, Best Best & Krieger, city reports say.

Parrish has stated in public that he has applied for city manager jobs in other cities. In 2006 and 2007 he was a finalist for city manager openings in Hemet and Redlands, respectively. Mathis was not the recruiter for either city.

“I think people in the marketplace know that I’m a senior manager,” Parrish said. “There was no premeditation on my part to hire Mathis so I could use him as my personal executive recruiter. The Covina council will attest to that, I’m there because I won the race.”

A hiring committee made up of Covina Mayor Walt Allen and Councilman Kevin Stapleton took the 15 applicants Mathis selected from the entire pool and reduced the field to six finalists. Parrish was unanimously selected by the five-member Covina council, Allen said.

“He (Mathis) had nothing to do with the final selection of the candidate,” Allen said. “There was just no comparison. We had some stellar candidates, but he ( Parrish ) just had what we were looking for.”

Mathis said he didn’t notify the Colton council he had selected Parrish as a candidate from the pool of applicants in Covina because “all of the city managers who were applying were guaranteed by me confidentiality.”

Mathis said he didn’t personally recruit Parrish and he learned the job was available and applied for it on his own.

Jessica Levinson, director of political reform for the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, said applicant privacy is a valid reason for not making the job search public, but public officials should take special care to avoid creating a situation the public could view as unethical.

“It’s the perception problem here,” she said, “of making it look like public officials are going behind the backs of the public and engaging in dealings for their own benefit.

“Whether that was going on or not, the way to avoid that is to be as open and as transparent as possible, especially when you have a city that has a history of scandal. When the public starts to lose faith in their public officials it hurts the integrity of the governmental process.”