After meeting for just over an hour on Thursday, members of the Ad Hoc Administrative Affairs Committee created a timeline for soliciting firms to recruit Dallas’ next city manager and appointed themselves to a subcommittee responsible for evaluating the companies.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, City Manager T.C. Broadnax said he would resign in early June after seven years at the helm, during which crime, City spending, and taxes increased. Dallas City Council members subsequently appointed Deputy City Manager Kim Tolbert to serve as interim city manager, drawing criticism from some quarters regarding the seeming impropriety of the process.

Nina Arias, the Human Resources director for the City of Dallas, said at Thursday’s meeting that she had received feedback from Dallas City Council members on what characteristics they are looking for in a search firm. She said the most important things cited were “experience and qualifications.”

In Texas, governing bodies often use a scoring system to determine how respondents to requests for proposals match up against each other. Arias and Danielle Thompson, director of the Office of Procurement Services, advised that council members assign 30 points to relevant experience and qualifications; 25 points to comprehensive search, approach, methodology, and timeline; 20 points for local and regional knowledge and expertise; 10 points for fees and expense structure; 15 points for “Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise” (MWBE) opportunities.

“All of the points before you can be modified based on the direction of this committee,” said Thompson. “The only points selection that’s on there that cannot be modified is the MWBE, which must stay at 15 points per the [City’s] MWBE policy. The HR survey included a question regarding the timeframe of how long this solicitation will be actively solicited on the street, as we call it, and so based on the feedback, four weeks was the most recommended or requested timeframe.”

“Two weeks later, we will have our standard pre-solicitation meeting where we invite all of the proposers, the community, to come ask questions,” she said. “The proposal submission closing date will be April 11. The evaluation committee will evaluate the proposals between April 15 [and] April 26. Vendor interviews will follow with the top three highest-ranked proposers between April 29 and May 10. Once the highest and most advantageous proposer is identified, we will initiate contract negotiation for the term and price.”

Recommendations for the search firm solicitation process were made based on how council members answered the survey.

“We have five council members who indicated four weeks was the most desired timeframe for having the [request for proposal] out,” Arias said. “That was followed by two weeks. So, overall, four weeks seems to be the average regarding the search firm evaluation committee. Regarding the search firm evaluation committee … having three City staff members and three council members seems to be the preferred approach. And with that, today, we’re asking the committee to identify the three council members that will participate.”

As they did during a February 26 meeting, committee members struggled to agree on how much time should be spent on the solicitation process.

“I see that it’s going to take a full four months, and I’d sure like to find a quicker alternative to that,” Council Member Paul Ridley (District 14) said. “Is there a way of utilizing an existing search firm that the City already is working with or has a contract with to shortcut this time period?”

Thompson repeated her answer from the February 26 committee meeting.

“As we discussed in the last briefing, we do have firms on contract,” she said. “However, there’s no contract that we can utilize for this scope of work and for the timeframe that we have before us. And we also don’t want to limit our opportunities to get more competitively priced [bids]. This is the process as it is reduced and streamlined. Again, the standard for procurement is six to nine months.”

Ridley persisted:

“If we were to change the time period for responding to the solicitation from four weeks to two weeks, which dates on the calendar would that change?”

Thompson said that scenario would “back everything up two weeks.”

“If we were able to reduce time in the evaluation and scoring, again, this would just knock off maybe three to four weeks. That would be the impact on the timeline,” she said.

After Ridley said he was “in favor of that,” Thompson warned the City could “run into a lot of barriers.”

“While we could do it, it’s not recommended from a procurement standpoint and equity standpoint because we miss the opportunity for them to truly develop a proposal,” she said.

Eventually, he and fellow Council Members Tennell Atkins (District 8), Cara Mendelsohn (District 12), Jesse Moreno (District 2), and Kathy Stewart (District 10) agreed to set the timeline at one week for evaluation; one week for vendor interviews; and two weeks for active solicitation period.

They then debated the merits of who should — and shouldn’t — be involved in examining the qualifications of prospective search firms.

“I do have a concern, first, about the idea of using [City] employees on a panel for selection,” Mendelsohn said. “Will we have a criteria that says that nobody would be allowed to serve on that selection criteria that’s been a client of any of the proposed firms in the past year?”

Panelists, Thompson said, must have “expertise relevant to the scope that you are scoring.”

“I don’t believe employees should be on the selection,” Mendelsohn said. “It is expressly our job to hire and fire the city manager. So, I don’t believe it’s appropriate.”

She also said that the experience and qualifications section of the scoring matrix should “be at least a 40.”

Council Members Jaynie Schultz (District 11) and Paula Blackmon (District 9), who had joined the meeting remotely, also pushed for applying a greater point assignment to relevant experience and qualifications. The council members on the committee voted to assign 55 points to that section, combining it with local and regional knowledge and expertise. For comprehensive search, approach, methodology, and timeline, 20 points were assigned; 10 points were assigned to fees and expense structure, and 15 points were assigned for MWBE opportunities.

After Ridley asked for clarification on who may serve on the evaluation committee, Assistant City Attorney Bertram Vandenberg said that any member of the Dallas City Council was eligible, as well as one member of the initiating department — in this case, Human Resources — and a representative from the Office of Procurement Services.

To that end, committee members approved Ridley’s motion that all five members of the Ad Hoc Administrative Affairs Committee and representatives from the Office of Procurement Services and Human Resources be appointed to the subcommittee.