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06-17-05 Process plans remain a mystery

By Timothy Cox

  The city soon will begin interviewing finalists for the St. Marys safety-service director position but officials are remaining tight-lipped about the process.

  Current Safety-Service Director Mike Weadock has tentative plans to retire early next year; no exact date has been set. Mayor Greg Freewalt said he would like to have someone on board to work with Weadock for a few months to learn the ropes.
  The application process is over and the prospective candidates are being reviewed by consultant Clemans-Nelson, in Lima. The consultant eventually will hand over a list of finalists to the city and Freewalt will schedule interviews.
  Freewalt would release no details about the applicants and would not even say how many applications were received. Clemans-Nelson is being utilized to maintain confidentiality in the process, he said. Specifically, city officials want interested parties to be able to apply for the job without their names being made public.
  "I'm just not opening up right now. Until we get a little further along, I'm not saying anything about it," Freewalt said.  When pressed, Freewalt could not explain how withholding the number of applicants in any way protects confidentiality. He would say only that a "fair" number of people applied for the job.
  Freewalt said he eventually would make the names of finalists available to the media.
  Ohio's public records laws specifically forbid public entities from using such tactics to circumvent the law.
  "A public office cannot avoid its responsibility for public records by transferring custody or even record-making function to a private entity," the law states.
  Records held by a private entity are public, the law says, if "the private entity prepared the records to perform responsibilities normally belonging to the public office," if the public entity can monitor the private entity's work and if the records are available to the public office for inspection. If government officials can look at the records, so can anyone from the public, the law says.
  As mayor, it is Freewalt's decision on who to hire for the city's top management job. Freewalt said, though, that he likely would include other people in the process, including a council member or two. The job requires a diverse skill set, including management, negotiations, customer service and knowledge about tax issues, utilities, streets, police and fire protection and other issues, Freewalt said.
  Weadock has worked for the city for 35 years and is the former head of the engineering department. He has been safety-service director since 1989. He retired a few years ago and then was rehired, earning about $78,000 annually.


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