Throughout its search for a permanent city manager, the Lawrence City Commission talked about reaching a consensus decision.
But this morning, as the commission unveiled its choice for a new city manager, it also indicated that its definition of a consensus didn't include a unanimous vote.
The commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner David Penny dissenting, to hire Mike Wildgen as Lawrence's fifth city manager.
Penny, who pledged his full support for the new city manager, explained that his vote wasn't against Wildgen, but indicated his opposition to the handling of the commission's search.
"My negative vote was basically based on the process. I felt that this process was not handled well," Penny said.
Penny named former mayor Bob Schumm as the culprit behind the alleged shortcomings of the search. Schumm said he would not comment on Penny's allegations.
"YOU HAVE to realize Schumm was our only contact with our consultant. . . . We never had any contact with the people we interviewed except for that three-hour (interview). None of us ever talked to them or anything. Information didn't get passed," Penny said.
Penny accused Schumm of being a strong advocate for Wildgen from the beginning and said Schumm's push ultimately influenced the entire search.
"We had some excellent candidates, but it was very difficult to get them up so we could look at them," he said.
Wildgen, Penny said, probably would have emerged as the commission's choice any way. But because of Schumm's manuevers, Penny said, no one was well served by the search.
"I think it would have been beneficial to the community not to have had this happen. I think it would have been beneficial to us as a commission; the failure rests here. I think it would have been very advantageous to Mike," he said.
Penny explained his vote to Wildgen twice, both during the meeting and immediately afterward when he went to congratulate the new city manager.
"I EXPLAINED to him that my question wasn't with him," Penny said. "I think Mike is going to do a good job. He's demonstrated internally that he can. He probably is going to have to work a little more on the front lines with the public but we're going to help him with that."
Mayor Shirley Martin-Smith said despite Penny's frustrations, he joined the commission in signing a statement released to the media in support of Wildgen.
"I can tell you unequivocably, as witnessed in the news release, that the five of us wholeheartedly support Mike, and that is the issue to focus on," Martin-Smith said.