By Kevin Hogencamp
Lane Rosen, the State Theatre’s managing partner, was selected Tuesday by City Manager Alfred Lott as the top candidate to fill the Albany Civic Center director’s position. If Lott handles Rosen’s hiring as he has other department head selections, and if Rosen passes a background check, and if Lott and Rosen reach an agreement on Rosen’s salary, Lott could hire Rosen as early as Dec. 28 — two weeks after naming Rosen as his top finalist.
In an interview, Rosen said he’s excited about the prospects of bringing quality events to the Civic Center while ensuring that public money is spent as efficiently as possible.
“Like I told the citizen’s panel (during the interview process), if the Civic Center ever operated in the black, we’re going to get it operating in the black again,” he said. “All of the employees there are hard-working, they’re proud of it, and I feel like we can turn things around at the Civic Center.”
Rosen, 40, opened the State Theatre seven years ago. It hosts a variety of local and out-of-town entertainment, from country star Luke Bryan, to Albany State University parties, to community fund-raisers and wedding receptions. Marketing entertainment venues adequately is a key factor to success in the business, he said.
Rosen said he’s uncertain whether he’ll keep operating the State Theatre, which he co-owns with restaurateur and musician Bo Henry. “One thing I do know, though,” he said, “is that the State Theatre is an important tool in the community’s entertainment arsenal.”
It is customary for Lott to fill department head positions two weeks after announcing his top candidates for the position. He does so because of his misinterpretation of a state law requiring a 14-day notice after top candidates for top executives for government agencies such as university president, school superintendent, or city or county manager.
Rosen would succeed embattled Civic Center directors Matty Goddard and John Mazzola. With strong support from most City Commission members, Lott fired Goddard, a longtime director, within months after Lott was hired in 2005. Lott violated personnel policies in dismissing Goddard, but Goddard was unable to win her job back in a federal complaint she filed.
In 2006, Lott hired Mazzola, a Floridian who was identified as a candidate for the position by government-management headhunter Bob Slavin, whose firm helped Lott lure three high-profile, infamously troubled former department directors to the city – Downtown Manager Don Buie, Police Chief James Younger, and Finance Director Robert Jones. Buie was hired despite being a convicted felon – which was revealed by journalists during the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s probe into public corruption on Buie’s part. Buie was convicted of nine felony counts and sentenced to a year in jail; he has been released, but is banned from living in Dougherty County. Lott forced Younger’s resignation and fired Jones after three months, yet gave them large bonuses – using taxpayer funds – as they departed.
Mazzola’s tenure, which ended in spring 2010, was rocky. Pulled in different directions by Lott and City Commission members who wanted favors, Mazzola generated many citizen complaints, as Goddard did during her tenure, before Lott relented to public pressure and began documenting Mazzola’s management failures. He found a job in Dodge City, Kansas, at his bosses’ urging (he also worked for Assistant City Manager Wes Smith), but has since been fired.
In 1992, the General Assembly restricted access to information regarding those who were applying for, or were being considered for, positions such as university president, school superintendent, or county manager. In the law, the class of jobs affected was defined as the “executive head of an agency… or of a unit of the University System of Georgia.”
The argument that was provided by legislators for limiting records access was that qualified applicants would be less likely to seek public jobs if their interest in the job was disclosed. So the law now states that “at least 14 calendar days prior to the meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken for the position, the agency shall release all documents which came into its possession with respect to as many as three persons …” considered finalists for the job.
An applicant would at that time be able to withdraw his/her name from consideration and avoid disclosure, in which case the identity and records of the next most qualified candidate would be disclosed. If the agency decides to not be fully accessible to the public during its entire search, it need not wait 14 days to take action on the position. An agency cannot avoid disclosure provisions by hiring a private person or agency to assist in the search and to maintain all records. In addition, the agency must disclose the demographic detail of the entire applicant pool at any time request is made.