Greg Doyon, the Great Falls city manager who was the unanimous choice to become Billings' city administrator, withdrew from consideration Friday.
Doyon and a Billings City Council subcommittee had been hung up on salary and other considerations.
In an email to the council and the council’s hired negotiator, W.D. Higginbotham of the Mercer Group, Doyon noted his understanding that there are “other capable candidates” who are ready to accept the job.
Doyon’s email to the mayor and council via Higginbotham arrived during Friday morning’s subcommittee meeting.
In that email, Doyon said his decision to withdraw was “about more than just the compensation package.” It’s “also about observing how elected officials who he/she will work for, recruits and retains its leadership. While the Council made a unanimous decision to offer me the job, I have not seen that support translate into an employment agreement appropriate for the position.”
“As such,” Doyon wrote, “I respectfully decline the employment offer. I am disappointed that we could not reach mutually agreeable terms for a full Council vote.”
Councilman Shaun Brown called Doyon’s decision and the negotiating process “disappointing.” Subcommittee Chairman Larry Brewster said he’s not sure how the council will proceed beginning Monday, the final council meeting of 2017. Three new council members — Frank Ewalt, Denise Joy and Penny Ronning, along with Mayor-Elect Bill Cole — will be seated Jan. 2, 2018.
“We probably shouldn’t go straight to Plan B,” Brewster said. “We’ll probably reopen the process with the new council.”
After Friday’s meeting, Brewster said Doyon “probably had higher expectations than the council was willing to meet. I’m sure that (the subcommittee’s) salary offer had an effect. I think he expected to be paid based on the market, but Billings is notorious for ignoring the market.”
Mayor Tom Hanel said "I think we're all disappointed, but I don't think salary was the only factor. I think it was a surprise to the subcommittee that he came back with the (salary) request that he did."
Friday's development "is no reflection on Mr. Doyon, who would have done a very fine job," Hanel added. "But we've got to look out for the community."
Consideration and approval of the new city administrator’s contract has been on Monday’s agenda since it was published Dec. 11. Council members said Friday they hope to discuss the next steps in a city administrator search during Monday's business meeting.
The three other finalists for the position were Ron Alles, the Helena city manager; Dave Fraser, former city manager of Boulder City, Nevada; and Kevin Smith, general manager of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District. It was unclear Friday how the council will proceed with the selection process.
Brewster said it “might be prudent” to reopen the search process, although at an expedited pace.
“We know where we are at on pay now,” he said. “Let’s see what the interest is and get input from the new council members on what they are looking for in a new manager.”
The council’s subcommittee did not budge from its $155,000 salary offer to Doyon, its unanimous selection Dec. 1 to replace Tina Volek, who retired after 13 years on Sept. 30. That’s $15,000 less than Doyon was seeking and $10,000 less than the counter-offer he made to the subcommittee Thursday.
The two parties were also divided on annual raises. The subcommittee offered Doyon 0-6 percent annual merit raises. He sought to be included in cost-of-living raises as well.