Job search costs for Fort Smith police chief, utilities director and HR boss approach $20,000, still going

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 115 views 

Fort Smith city government and Dallas-based Strategic Government Resources (SGR) continue to work toward filling the city’s top three open positions. There were 82 applicants for the positions of human resources director (39), chief of police (33) and utilities director (10). July 22 was the deadline for applications.

This overall number reflected a journey that began in late May shortly after Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken stepped into his new position. Geffken signed the contract with SGR on May 23. Talk Business & Politics was able to access the full scope of services earlier this week through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. (The city and SGR have not provided bio info on the 82 applicants because they say not all applicants will be interviewed.)

The documents show a number of itemized charges with the biggest including a $6,000 social media and marketing blitz to spread the word among targeted email lists and Facebook/Twitter subscribers as well as placement on the SGR website. Emails exchanged between the city and SGR show an additional $4,200 in advertising costs for human resource director, $3,700 for chief of police, and $4,700 for utilities director – $12,600 altogether.

Geffken also recommended expanding the social media package beyond Facebook and Twitter to include LinkedIn for the HR and utilities slots “since almost everyone I know is on LinkedIn for professional purposes,” he wrote.

A final total for the SGR contract will be hard to nail down until the positions are filled as the scope included a number of add-ons that may not factor in to the city’s decision-making process. Just going by surveys, brochures, recruitment videos, social media/marketing packages, initial screening of applicants, and interview support, the tally is at around $18,350, but that does not include some of the per candidate charges that come later in the process.

For example, SGR offers individual resume analysis and customized candidate questions at $250 per candidate; screening questionnaires at $250 per candidate; online interviews at $250 per candidate; comprehensive media reports at $500 per candidate; management style analyses at $150 per candidate; background checks at $300 per candidate; and reference checks at $100 each.

To give an idea of what that total could be, the city recently hired internal candidate Phil Christensen from a pool of six finalists for the vacant fire chief position. However, the applicant search had begun long before Geffken took over on May 9 and was conducted through the city’s standard submissions process, so it isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

Geffken said Tuesday he was in the process of organizing interview committees for the three positions and that Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman would help narrow down the lengthy list of applicants.

Additional add-ons per the scope of services that could also factor in to the final contract costs include a $1,000-per-day total for any on-site visits from SGR, $4,000-plus-travel expenses for a team-building workshop, and approximately $250 per hour for any additional supplemental services.

Talk Business & Politics did ask city administration to estimate what it believes the final costs will be, but had not received a response at the time of publication. The human resources position has been open since October of last year while chief of police was vacated with former Chief Kevin Lindsey’s resignation in March. Former Utilities Director Steve Parke retired April 1.

The two highest profile positions – police and utilities – are being handled by interim chief, Maj. Dean Pitts, and temporary director Bob Roddy of Burns & McDonnell, respectively. Coordinator Lindsey Kaelin has been the primary point of contact in HR.

Geffken said he intends to have all three positions filled by early October. SGR’s scope of services are available as a PDF at this link.