Six finalists for Danville city manager named

December 12, 2003

The Danville City Commission, in a surprise move, released the names of the six finalists for city manager Thursday, a month after some commissioners said they wanted to withhold the names to protect candidates' privacy.

Mayor John W.D. Bowling went so far as to ask in a public meeting if there was a "legal way around" the state's Open Meetings Law that would allow the city to keep the names secret.

The Advocate-Messenger learned in telephone conversations with the attorney general's office that the identities of the applicants could be withheld, even though they were a part of an open and public meeting, but that other information on the documents could be considered open record.

Advocate Managing Editor John Nelson made a formal open records request to the city for the applications in late November. In that request, the newspaper asked only for information about the qualifications of the candidates, not their identities.


In his first response, Ed Hays, attorney for the city, sought to extend the deadline for complying with the request because the screening committee was still reviewing the applications. He noted that the committee had met Nov. 22, selected the top six candidates "and did on that date transfer all records pertaining to the matter from the custody of Donna Groves, a member of the selection committee, to the same Ms. Groves in her capacity as City Clerk."

He also said he was concerned that the request could not be fulfilled without revealing the identities of the applicants.

The newspaper replied that it was interested in such things as level of education and experience and that those things could be revealed without identifying the candidates. Nelson agreed to allow two more days for the request to be honored. Hays wrote back immediately and denied the request outright, citing the privacy issue.

The newspaper appealed the denial to the state attorney general's office, the enforcement authority of the Open Meetings Act and the Open Records Act.

On Thursday, before any response from the attorney general had been received, the applications, with addresses and phone numbers blacked out, were on Nelson's desk. The names, however, were revealed.

In his response to the newspaper's appeal, Hays wrote that "it was always the intention of the City Commission to release the names of the finalists for the position "

Hays first told commissioners that that when the city had a final list of candidates it would have to be released to the public. But after the commission requested he seek a legal way to withhold the names, Hays began to cite an attorney general's opinion supporting such action. It was on the basis of that opinion that he denied the newspaper's formal request, even though that request did not seek the names.

In his response to the appeal, Hays said he had been waiting for the commissioners to learn the names of the finalists before revealing them.

Former City Manager Steve Biven resigned April 28, under pressure from a faction of the City Commission led by Bowling. Bridgette Milby was named interim city manager.

Here are the candidates:

* Joseph Cicchirillo. He has been city manager of Weirton, W.V., a city of 20,411, since 2001.

Cicchirillo received a masters of science-industrial relations from West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.V.; and a bachelor’s of education from West Liberty State College, West Liberty, W.V. He has also been trained in import/export logistics from Robert Morris College in Coraopolis, Pa.

* Bridgette Milby. She has been Danville interim city manager since April and was assistant city manager.

She earned a bachelor’s in business from Berea College.

* Douglas Beckham. He is city administrator of Williamstown, Ky., a city of 3,000, and has been employed by the city since July 1995.

He earned a bachelor’s in public administration from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., and attended graduate school at Pembroke State University in North Carolina for one year.

* Darrell Blenniss. He has been assistant village manager of Grayslake, Ill., population 18,500, since September 2001.

He earned a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Louisville, and earned a master’s in public administration from Ohio State University.

* Austin Edmondson. He was city administrator for Morganfield, Ky., population 3,500, from Feb. 1998 -Aug. 2002.

He earned a bachelor’s in public administration, and a master’s of public administration from the University of Nebraska in Omaha.

* Oliver Merriam. He was village administrator of Plover, Wis., population 10,500, from June 2000 -September 2002.

He earned a bachelor’s in history from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis. and a master’s from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

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