Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

EVP search unresolved

Board fails to OK recommended candidate in long overdue process

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The protracted search for the Montgomery Village Foundation’s new top administrator suffered a major setback last week as the foundation’s board of directors failed to approve the recommended candidate.

With one board member abstaining, the nine volunteer board members split 4-4 over the search committee’s pick for the new executive vice president, according to a statement from Michael Gronsky, president of the Stedwick Homes Corp., who was involved in the interview process.

Board member Neville Levi, who has missed the last three monthly board meetings, abstained, Gronsky said. Levi abstained from votes earlier in the meeting on Thursday night, saying he was preoccupied with a sudden family emergency.

‘‘The board deliberated long and thoughtfully about the recommendation of the search committee, but we’re not prepared to accept it,” board member Dick Wright said Monday. ‘‘The search committee essentially did not have a strong majority for its recommendation, and the board wasn’t able to form one, either.”

The board had hoped the new executive vice president would be in place by Sept. 1. Pat Huson, chosen as the interim EVP after John R. Zakian resigned last summer, will continue in the role for now.

It is unclear what the next step will be.

‘‘I don’t think we know in detail,” Wright said. ‘‘So far as I know, the three finalist candidates are still under consideration. ... Fortunately, Pat is willing to hang in there with us.”

The selection of the candidate whom the board rejected — former foundation employee Sandra Swarr, according to Gronsky’s statement — has been a controversy of its own.

Swarr, who previously worked in the foundation’s community management department, resigned in 2004 on what some say were bad terms.

The presidents of seven of the Village’s 20 homeowners groups have taken issue with the search process, speculating that Swarr was the pick from the very beginning. They also question her qualifications for running an $8 million enterprise.

Gronsky and Linc Perley, president of the Whetstone Homes Corp., interviewed Swarr by telephone prior to the board meeting. They also were allowed to review the resumes of all three final candidates.

‘‘The EVP deals regularly with professionals in a variety of fields, including government, financial, legal, architectural, engineering, landscaping and communications,” Gronsky told the board in the closed session, according to an e-mail he sent The Gazette. ‘‘After carefully reviewing the resumes of the three finalists, and speaking in person to the final candidate selected by the committee, in our opinion, the two candidates that were not selected have qualifications that far outweigh the qualifications of Sandra Swarr.”

After some discussion, the board took its vote in closed session, to the chagrin of some Village leaders who earlier in the meeting challenged the board to take its vote in public.

‘‘They have behaved like they have had something to hide,” said Terry O’Grady, president of the East Village Homes Corp. ‘‘If the members of this board continue to try to find loopholes” in state laws and foundation policy, ‘‘you’re taking us down the road to disaster.”

But not all Village leaders agree.

Saying he was speaking only for himself, South Village Homes Corp. president Mark Firley said the criticisms were ‘‘in danger of confusing credentialism with qualifications,” which would lead to unnecessary strife.

‘‘I hope that we haven’t gotten to the point where we’ve elevated process above the good faith of our neighbors,” he said at the board meeting.