The Richland City Council in the past evaluated its city manager during closed executive sessions with no outside assistance. Now the council is using a consultant to aid the process, and the new procedure has created tension at city hall.
City Manager Cindy Reents’ contract requires a yearly council review. She was hired as city manager in December 2007 with a $131,000 yearly salary plus benefits. Since then, she has received a 2 to 3 percent salary increase each year as well as thousands of dollars in incentives. Her current salary is around $200,000.
At the Oct. 6 council meeting Mayor Ryan Lukson reported that a committee that included him and Councilmembers Michael Alvarez and Sandra Kent had interviewed a Georgia “professional facilitator” who they did not believe fit their needs.
Lukson said that since it might be a conflict for Reents to help pick a consultant, Assistant City Manager Jon Amundson would direct the process for identifying new candidates for the job of consultant.
Later in the meeting Reents replied, “I will make sure we put staff resources towards that, but I want the authority for the task myself.”
During his comments Councilmember Terry Christensen responded, “Cindy doesn’t select the person.” He did agree that Reents could pick candidates that the Lukson committee could interview.
Despite the tense words at the Oct. 6 meeting, the city council expanded the city manager’s authority at the Nov. 3 meeting.
The council removed the job description of assistant city manager from the city code. Now the city manager will pick an assistant city manager and assign them to tasks as needed.
Newly appointed Councilmember Marianne Boring has an unusual situation. When she evaluates the city manager, she will be judging her husband’s boss. Michael Boring works in the Richland Development Office.
In an email to the Observer, Boring said that she does not believe that she has a conflict.
Reents joined the staff at city hall as assistant city manager in 2003 when her name was Cindy Johnson. In 2007, she became city manager. She had previously worked in various city departments in Ridgecrest, California.
Reents, 57, grew up in Trona, California, near Ridgecrest. She received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration from California Coastal University, a pioneer in distance learning.
Cindy Johnson became Cindy Reents in 2015 after she married Dean Reents, a Richland fire department captain who is now retired.
Several citizens have questioned whether Reents has violated the residency requirement in the Richland City Charter. Section 4.01 of the charter reads: “The manager need not be a resident of the state when appointed but during the tenure of office he [note below] shall reside within the city.”
Questions arose because the only home listed in the Benton County property records for Reents or her husband is in the city of West Richland.
When asked if she lived in Richland, Reents declined to comment.
She did respond, “I am very proud of my humble beginnings, the sacrifices made and how hard I worked to get where I am today. It was not easy nor was it quick but with perseverance and support from my family I have accomplished quite a bit.”
Note: Authors of the city charter obviously did not expect a woman to become city manager.