The Burlington Board of Selectmen interviewed representatives of the two finalist municipal search companies and made a decision following some lengthy discussion to hire a company to assist in the . The board voted to hire the Edwards J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management, a public entity based at UMass Boston.
The other finalist was the Municipal Resources Inc. of Meredith, NH. The Edwards J. Collins bid was for $14,500 and the Municipal Resources Inc. bid was $12,400, according to Joanne Faust, Burlington's Director of Human Resources. The board had previously allotted $20,000 to hire a company to help with the search.
Price alone was not the determining factor for which company to hire. The board interviewed representatives from both, asking questions for about half-an-hour to 45-minutes with each. During the interview board members asked about how the companies' experience, how they would conduct the search, how they would work with the , how many candidates they expect to respond and what they would do if no qualified candidate is found.
The board considered both companies as viable candidates to handle the search. Both have employees that have worked either in municipal government, on previous searches or have been town leaders themselves. Municipal Resources Inc. has been in business longer, but board members said they thought the Collins Center's focus on Massachusetts towns would better fit the town's need.
"I think both companies are qualified, either will deliver," Chairman of the Board Walter Zenkin said.
Much of the discussion following the interviews focused on two points; how each company would work with the search committee and what happens if the initial search process doesn't result in a qualified candidate. Both companies will use the same or similar services to reach potential candidates and both will conduct background checks for education, criminal records and credit, so those were less of a factor.
Board members seemed to think Alan Gould, Operations Manager at Municipal Resources, better handled the search committee question. During the interview he said search committee represents the will of the community and that his company would work to educate members on the process and keep them updated on the search.
"We work hand-in-hand with committees and educate them as we go along," Gould said. "We are a resource to them and they are a resource to us.”
Richard Kobayashi, Senior Consultant and Project Manager for the Collins Center, said his company also works with search committees, but his answer was less enthusiastic. He said the committee should come up with a vision for what a successful candidate would look like in three to five years
"We consider the screening committee as our first client," Kobayashi said. "We are consultants to you but also to them. We think our job is to put them in a position where they can avoid the fatal error of the appointment process – the error of choosing the best person from a mediocre pool."
It was that sentiment, which Kobayashi echoed multiple times in his interview, that seemed to win over the board. Kobayashi repeatedly said "We never recommend choosing best person from a mediocre pool." In the end the board voted 5-0 for the Collins Center and emphasized Kobayashi's emphasis that the company would start the process over, rather than re-evaluating the process as proposed by Gould, if a qualified candidate is not found in the first search.
"What decided it for me was what would happen if we don’t have a good candidate," Board Member Ralph Patuto said. "Municipal Resources said they would look at the scores whereas the Collins Center representative said they'd go out and find better candidates."
The one hold-out on the board was member Robert Hogan, who said he felt more comfortable with Municipal Resources Inc. In the end he voted with the board, but with a caveat.
"For sake of unanimity, I will say 'yes' [to the Collins Center] but I had other opinions," he said.
Chair Walter Zenkin, for his part, said he felt good with the decision.
"I feel very confident," he said. "I'm looking forward to meeting with Richard [Kobayashi] and his colleague to get this ball rolling.