The Buzz

NEWBERRY – Six months have elapsed since Newberry City Manager Mike New stepped into his current position, and according to his contract, the city commission is required to evaluate his performance for the initial six-month period. The evaluation isn’t just an obligatory task, but depending on the rating, New may be in line for a five percent salary increase.

At the Dec. 8 commission meeting, commissioners were presented with a comprehensive evaluation form for use in conducting New’s performance. “We put a lot on his plate for the first six months,” said Mayor Bill Conrad. Champions Baseball, the CRA, franchise fees and the fire department consolidation were the main four areas commissioners asked New to tackle immediately, said Conrad. “Looks like he has done a great job,” he added.

Specific performance categories being evaluated include City Commission Relationships, Public Relations, Effective Leadership and Development of Staff, Fiscal Management, Communication/Organizational Skills, Personal Traits, Intergovernmental Affairs, Long Range Planning and Areas of Special Interest to the Commission.

At the Jan. 12, 2015 meeting, commissioners are slated to receive a Manager's letter in which New is expected to list his accomplishments during his relatively short time in office. Completed evaluation forms are to be returned by Jan. 24, at which time Conrad will tabulate the results and present them to New, the commission and the public during the Jan. 26 meeting.

City Attorney Scott Walker's contract for the coming year was also included as part of the commission's agenda. Walker's firm, Folds and Walker, LLC, has been representing the city for the past 40 years. The city received a request from Walker recently requesting a bump up in retainer fees from $3,500/month to $4,500/month.

Conrad said when he asked for a copy of their previous contract with the city, records showed a 2006 letter in which the firm requested a bump up in retainer fees from $2,500 to $3,500/month. "Apparently, it has been eight years since the city increased their retainer fees," said Conrad.

Conrad said the city could take one of three actions. One option would be to bring in an outside attorney to negotiate a contract for the city with Walker. Another option would involve the city forming a negotiating team consisting of the mayor, city manager and one other commissioner to negotiate with Walker. A third option would be to put out a request for proposal to law firms.

Ultimately, because the attorney serves the commission, it was decided to eliminate the need for the city manager to be part of the negotiating team. Commissioner Tim Marden was named to the team and Conrad said the city could have their FMPA lawyer review the contract for sufficiency. The negotiating team of Conrad and Marden will negotiate a draft of the contract and bring it back to the commission for a final decision, said Conrad.

A review of the items Walker was in the process of working on for the city led commissioners to put the entire topic off until after the first of the year. At that time, Conrad and Marden are expected to begin to negotiate a contract that stipulates what is covered by the retainer fee and what is billed as extra legal work.

"Scott has been our city attorney since he graduated law school and has our corporate knowledge," said Conrad. "We rely on him not only for legal advice, but he also acts as our parliamentarian and as our corporate body of knowledge."

Because Walker has served in this position for so long, commissioners were concerned that the learning curve to bring another attorney up to speed on the various issues Walker is currently involved in might end up with needless expense.

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