Glynn County commissioners laid out no clear path to find a county manager Thursday and at least one commissioner strongly defended the board’s failed attempt to appoint a longtime local politician to the position.
Commissioner Sammy Tostensen rejected assertions that the commissioners had done anything wrong in voting to appoint Jeff Chapman, the county’s two-term tax commissioner, to the position, even though Chapman didn’t apply for the job, wasn’t among the candidates vetted by a county-hired search firm and didn’t have the advertised qualifications.
After sitting through a polite scolding during the commission meeting by Laura Khurana, who was representing civic groups A Better Glynn and Women’s Voices of Glynn, Tostensen said the commission was free to select any manager any way it wanted to.
“There are no requirements for that position in writing, and there are no state requirements about on how to go about choosing a county manager,” he told Khurana. “You’re assuming that you have the right criteria, which there is none.”
Khurana noted that the county commission had set qualifications when it advertised for the job and hired a search firm to find qualified candidates – which were later rejected by the board. She complained the selection lacked transparency and smacked of “cronyism.”
After the application process was closed, two commissioners approached Chapman, a longtime politician, suggesting he raise his hand for the job, which would come with an $80,000 annual raise over his position as tax commissioner. Despite the job’s advertised requirements, Chapman has no college degree or experience as a public administrator.
Khurana said that the commissioners apparently had no intention of following the recommendations of a search firm it paid $17,000 to identify and vet qualified candidates “It looks like you knew what you wanted all along and you pursued that,” she said.
Tostensen said the commission was free to ignore the search firm, which, he said, provided candidates who weren’t up to the job. “We have a right as commissioners if we see a candidate that we feel would be right to fill that position,” he said.
Khurana pleaded with the commissioners to do better. “Please hear me when I say the citizens of Glynn County are not interested in the appearance of transparency or the appearance of professionalism or the appearance of accountability,” she said. “We actually expect you to show us those things.
“You have a second chance now to do this the right way,” she said.
She urged the commissioners to hire “a county manager who meets the job requirement, who has been appropriately and thoroughly vetted, and has the qualifications and experience needed to do this job well, even if she’s a woman, even if she’s not a political insider and even if she doesn’t owe you any favors or vice versa.”
The acting county manager has already resigned but has agreed to stay on the job until July 23. The other candidates identified by a search firm are no longer in the running.
After opposition by Khurana’s organizations and others surfaced, Chapman informed commission Chairman Wayne Neal of his decision in a letter dated Tuesday
He attributed his withdrawal to his concerns that the job came with a one-year employment contract.
In a 4-3 vote, the commissioners July 1 voted to make Chapman the sole candidate for the job. In doing so, the commissioners set aside two qualified candidates – both women – recommended by a professional search firm hired by the county.
The commission had planned to officially appoint Chapman at Thursday’s meeting.
One of candidates has extensive experience with Glynn County government. Tonya Miller, Glynn County’s former chief financial officer, spent six years with the county before leaving in 2019. Miller, 51, has been city manager in Waycross since her departure.
The other candidate identified by Mercer Group is Alicia Vaughn. She was county manager in Northwest Georgia’s Catoosa County until she resigned in April. She has accepted another job.
After the regular meeting, the commissioners appointed County Attorney Aaron Mumford and County Chief Financial Officer Tamara Munson as co-acting county managers until a new manager is hired.