ROCKVILLE — After the Mayor and Council voted to terminate its previous city clerk and director of council operations, Rockville has a permanent replacement just three weeks later.
On Monday night, the mayor and council voted 3-2 to on a resolution approving longtime Rockville employee Sara Taylor-Ferrell as the new city clerk and director of council operations for the city. Previously, Taylor-Ferrell had served in an acting role after the mayor and council voted to terminate Kathleen Conway.
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Council member Beryl Feinberg voted against the resolution naming Taylor-Ferrell city clerk and director of council operations, while Council members Mark Pierzchala, Julie Palakovich Carr and Virginia Onley voted in favor.
Before the vote Monday night, Feinberg had said her decision to vote against approving Taylor-Ferrell was not personal, but that the way the mayor and council had handled the process was out of order.
Feinberg claimed that the mayor and council decided to make Taylor-Ferrell the permanent city clerk and director of council operations without conducting a search or interviewing other candidates – an unusual move. Pierzchala and Onley declined to comment on the process to hire Taylor-Ferrell, saying it was a personnel matter and they could not comment.
Feinberg said part of the reason for her “no” vote was the fact that there could be a change in how the position is defined. City clerk/director of council operations is one of three positions that is directly overseen by the mayor and council, with the other two being city manager and city attorney.
The city clerk/director of council operations provides administrative support to the mayor and council, administers city elections, and helps maintain records for the city. Pierzchala said he would like to talk about defining the “director of council operations” part of the job title more specifically, saying that the role is too vague.
“I think it’s too fuzzily defined,” Pierzchala said.
While Pierzchala has support on the council about discussing ways to redefine the job, Feinberg said the process to promote Taylor-Ferrell and then potentially change the role is going backward from a human resources standpoint.
“This is contrary to all Human Resources 101 on recruitment and on filing vacancies,” Feinberg said. “As is commonly understood, the appropriate time to review position duties, roles, etc., is when there is a vacancy, not when a position is encumbered or filled.”
Before her promotion Taylor-Ferrell worked for the City of Rockville for nearly two decades, mostly in the City Clerk’s office and now replaces former city clerk and director of council operations Kathleen Conway.
Conway was terminated in a September Executive Session by a 3-2 vote, with Newton and Feinberg voting against her firing.
The Mayor and members of the City Council declined to comment on the reason for Conway’s sudden termination, citing Maryland’s Open Meetings Act, which allows public officials to not disclose personnel information about government employees.