July 15, 2018

City Manager Search



I am extremely disappointed in both the process and the outcome of the recently concluded City Manager search.

The search concluded with the selection of local attorney Richard Kirby as the new City Manager. While I don’t doubt that Mr. Kirby will work hard, I do not think that he was the most qualified candidate for the post. In fact, the important problem is, he isn’t technically qualified at all, under the City Charter.

Back a couple of decades ago, the residents of this city passed a charter requirement that the City Manager must possess a Master’s Degree in Business Administration or Public Administration, or ‘equivalent’. Mr. Kirby possesses a J.D. (Doctor of Law) which, while a personal achievement, is not a management degree.

If you ask a member of the city council, as I have, they will act like you are crazy and say things along the line of “of course a J.D is equivalent!” and then they will fall back to “Our HR Director certified that he is qualified”.

I want to examine this argument for a few minutes. Let’s first look at the definition of ‘equivalent’, “equal in value, amount, function, meaning, etc” since value and amount doesn’t really fit in this case, lets look mainly at function.

Mr. Kirby’s J.D. comes from Catholic University of America. So let’s look at the coursework for a J.D. degree and for an M.B.A. and see how much overlap and equivalency there is.
A quick list for their J.D. program includes: Administrative Law (close), Advanced Criminal Procedure, Federal Civil Procedure, Copyright Law, Patent Law, Tort Law, Agency Law, Dispute Resolution (may be somewhat useful), Indian Law, Anti-trust, Art Law, Bankruptcy (hopefully we won’t need that!), Civil Procedure, Becoming a Public Policy Lawyer (again, close), Constitutional Law, Contracts (again close), Criminal Procedure and more along a similar vein.

The Catholic University of America does not actually offer an MBA program, instead offering an MSBA (Masters of Science in Business Analysis) which they say is ‘equivalent’ (I guess Kathleen Waterbury should tell them their J.D. is for that purpose). The courses in the MSBA program are as follows; Managing the Enterprise, Accounting and Financial Analysis, Quantitative Analysis, Integrated Marketing, Lessons in Leadership, Business Communications, Applied Financial Management, Business Research, Business Law (close). Looking at other schools, their MBA programs cover the same or similar ground.

So based on coursework, I think there’s no argument to be made that the J.D. degree is equal in function or meaning to an M.B.A. degree or CAU’s MSBA program. I think it is fortuitous that CAU offers an MSBA degree precisely because that is the type of program that would be equivalent to an M.B.A. and what the Charter provision intended.

As for the ‘certification’ that Director Waterbury issued, the Charter does not grant her such ‘magic wand’ authority to approve candidates for City Manager and the fact that City Council members are hiding behind her to cover themselves is concerning.

I hold no ill will to Mr. Kirby and I hope that his limited management training and experience does not hinder him, he may be very naturally skilled and I hope for all our sake that his is. I think we lost a great opportunity to bring in the well qualified Mr. Cunha to provide true professional leadership in this city.

Jason Desrosiers
67 Dorr Avenue


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