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Willmar, Minn., Utilities Commission to interview three GM finalists Aug. 27

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission will interview three finalists for the vacant general manager's position on Aug. 27, says Steve Salzer, utility commission vice president.

He said the commission's Labor Committee interviewed five semifinalists on Aug. 15 and selected the three for interviews by the full commission.

The state Data Practices Act requires those finalists to be named, but the commission is declining to do so.

Salzer said Monday the names of the finalists were not released because an employment consultant who is working with the commission on the hiring process is verifying that the finalists are still interested in the position.

The withholding of the names of the finalists is not valid under the law.

Mark Anfinson, lawyer for the Minnesota Newspaper Association, said the state Court of Appeals in Mankato Free Press v. City of North Mankato expressly stated that the names of finalists are public from the time that they are selected and that it is not proper to delay disclosure of the names for any reason, including to verify that the candidates are still interested.

The state's Data Practices Act requires that the names of job applicants become public data when those applicants become "finalists," and the statute defines finalists as "an individual who is selected to be interviewed by the appointing authority prior to selection."

The Willmar utility has been without a general manager since February when former general manager Bruce Gomm was terminated.

The semifinalists were interviewed by Salzer, who was attending for Labor Committee Chairman Matt Schrupp, and by commissioners Dave Becker and Carol Laumer, and David Unmacht, senior vice president and director of organizational management and human resources group for Springsted Inc., of St. Paul.

After their interviews, the finalists will meet local leaders and larger utility customers and receive a tour of the city, according to Salzer. Mid-September is the target date for selecting a news general manager.

"We really need to get someone going here. We're pushing as fast as we can,'' Salzer said.

-- Tribune News Editor Susan Lunneborg contributed to this story.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150