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Burnett to make over $21,000 per year more than Trout as administrator of Mason City; hiring process questioned

This news story was published on April 10, 2018.
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City Administrator Aaron Burnett

MASON CITY – Mason City’s new City Administrator will get a sizable raise above his predecessor – even as some question the hiring process that led to his selection for the job.

Aaron Burnett, from Keokuk, Iowa, will likely be formally approved for his new job as City Administrator this week at a 5:30 PM Thursday special council meeting at the library. He will be paid a salary of $170,000 per year. The city’s Finance Department says Burnett “will be in IPERS and no car allowance.”

Brent Trout

Burnett’s salary is a sizable raise from the salary his predecessor, Brent Trout earned. Hired in Topeka, Kansas (salary $195,000) last August, Mr. Trout left Mason City and a salary of $148,532 (plus a car allowance) – over $21,000 per year less than Burnett’s salary.

Burnett is scheduled to start his new job in Mason City on June 29, 2018.  He will get up to $14,000 from the City for moving and relocation expenses.  Sources familiar with Burnett’s pay history say he was paid over $70,000 per year in Humboldt as administrator there, then left for Keokuk and a $110,000 annual salary.   Last fall, Keokuk announced a $30,000 raise for Burnett to be spread out over 3 years.

Meanwhile, some observing the hiring process for City Administrator in Mason City have begun to ask questions as to how the decision to hire Burnett was arrived at.

Bill Schickel kept Burnett a secret –
but not the other “finalists” – why?

In February, Mason City publicly announced that a search firm had helped secure 5 finalists for the job of City Administrator.  Later, however, after their names had been made public, all 5 candidates were unceremoniously dismissed as Mayor Bill Schickel said the city would not pursue them.  No reasons were given for their dismissal from consideration for the job.  All 5 attended a public community reception in Mason City in February.

A source who has been a City Administrator tells NIT that the candidacy of the previous 5 applicants “was made very public in stark contrast to Burnett’s … one of the magic legal terms is ‘disparate treatment’ …  the openness of their candidacy vs the sequesteredness (sic) of  Burnett is a big deal.”

City hall kept Burnett’s name a secret through the process of bringing him on board.  He had interviewed just one time – on April 4 – for the job and his name was not released prior to that interview nor on April 6, when the council voted to let Schickel and city staff negotiate with him.  It was not until April 9 that the public learned that Schickel and the city council were ready to hire Burnett and the terms of his deal were already complete.

Other questions have been raised about the process by which Schickel and the council ultimately chose Burnett.  The previous 5 “finalists” for the City Administrator job were all white males; their ages were not released, but our source says none were younger than age 50. NIT has learned that Burnett is just 38.  This might matter because, Councilmen John Lee and Will Symonds made remarks to the Globe Gazette about Burnett’s “youthfulness”.

According to the Globe Gazette, “His youth and enthusiasm is really big,” Lee beamed about Burnett.  The Globe also wrote, “Second Ward Councilman Will Symonds seconded Lee’s stance on Burnett’s youthfulness.”

According to code 216 of the Iowa Civil Rights Code, which outlines unfair or discriminatory hiring practices, age is a protected class.  It is discriminatory to consider age when hiring a person for a job.

NIT questioned the city council and Mayor Schickel on the process by which they selected Burnett for the City Administrator job.  They were asked, “In this hiring process, did age play any role in the selection of Mr. Burnett over other candidates?  Was Mr. Burnett considered a stronger candidate due to his so-called “youthfulness”?

Ward 2 Councilman Will Symonds responded with an answer, saying, “I could see if someone were to skim what I wrote, they might think I was talking about his age … I do not know what the candidate’s age is. I can take some guesses to a range of how old he is, but I am not certain what it actually is.”

NIT also asked the mayor and council, “Did the council / mayor consider in their search any candidates that were:

Older than age 55
May have a disability
Not a white man.”

The question has so far not been answered by any of the elected Mason City officials.

John Lee

Councilman John Lee already has what some consider to be a questionable track record when dealing with city employees – namely Al Dyer, the now-former city fire chief.  Dyer and Lee became embroiled in controversy late last year when a secret memo on Dyer’s work status addressed only to the City Council and the Mayor was deliberately leaked to KIMT by councilman John Lee – despite warnings that it could place the city into legal harm’s way. Dyer had been put on administrative leave for possible behavior that was never publicly disclosed.  After the secret memo was leaked by John Lee, the city chose to negotiate with Dyer to get his resignation.  This allowed Dyer to continue to collect paychecks and benefits into 2018 in return for his promise not to sue the City.

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23 Responses to Burnett to make over $21,000 per year more than Trout as administrator of Mason City; hiring process questioned

  1. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 13, 2018 at 6:54 am

    This guy looks like he is about 5’7” tall. He will probably be sitting on a pillow like Mark Zuckerberg did at his hearing to appear taller. The youngster was in Keokuk for 2 years and one there set himself up with a $30,000 pay increase. Now after 6 months he comes here for more money. We needed someone with more experience. But, our mayor was so desperate to hire someone who hadn’t been fired.

  2. Avatar

    MattG Reply Report comment

    April 11, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    If Mason City doesn’t gets some business owners/sense on that council, we are looking at bankruptcy. Drive around and peek at the town vacancies, but watch out for numerous pot holes. Any building owner should bend over backwards for any business that wants to lease. We have more realtors then doctors.

  3. Avatar

    MattG Reply Report comment

    April 11, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    This is yet another step backwards at a time that an EXPERIENCED city administrator was needed, this will cement the Renaissance failure. 170,000.00 plus benefits is simply unbelievable. GREAT JOB BILLYSCHICKLE job poorly done.

  4. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 11, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    we needed experience and got a 2year intern that we paid 170k plus benefits… we really are stupid .

    • NIT Publisher

      NIT Publisher Reply Report comment

      April 11, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      The Globe hires fresh young interns, too. That’s the formula to hasten bankruptcy.

  5. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 11, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    There’s only two ways this is going to go…..the newly hired “youth” will become (moldable) corrupt like the people who interviewed and hired him…..or after a short time he will realize he has been “bought” and in over his head so it will be time to take the money and RUN!
    The future is easy to predict…..look at the history? The ex-fire chief is one good example, any need to dig deeper to convince you?…….

    • NIT Publisher

      NIT Publisher Reply Report comment

      April 11, 2018 at 4:37 pm

      His first stop will be 9 North Federal Avenue to get clued in on who the “players” in town are. The last time the city made a “big hire” he was clued in as to who the “players” are and apparently how to treat certain folks that ask too many questions. Some of us got a threat right out of the gate afterward.

  6. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 11, 2018 at 11:31 am

    The “leadership white collar criminals” continue to piss away YOUR tax dollars as they see fit. Wouldn’t you as a taxpayer really enjoy an unlimited bank account and could buy or waste all the $$$ you wanted and not worry about the consequences? Just keep paying your taxes and occasional increases and don’t question anything! Slick Willie and his gang have everything under control!

  7. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 11, 2018 at 9:01 am

    ADD – Ipers + Heath/Dental insurance = $200,000.00+ per year – That’s about what the president of the United States used to make – of course you liberal bottom feeders all know Trump waived that salary and it goes to charities.

  8. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 10, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    I recently came back to Mason City after being gone for a prolonged period. Nothing changes here and it is so sad. There is just nothing to look forward to here. Long faces and no fun. Don’t know how long I’ll stay but without any stimulus it’s no wonder people leave for greener pastures.

  9. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 10, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    What a bunch of losers. And you wonder why MC has problems. I hear direct from a Keokuk employee they are sad to see him go. Embrace this young man. It is the best you are gong to get. And be lucky to get him. Donny and debbie downers need to suck it up buttercups.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      April 10, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      These are the same people that don’t take the time to vote but complain about the outcome of the election.
      They will never be happy, they live to bitch.

      • Avatar

        More BS Reply Report comment

        April 10, 2018 at 10:33 pm

        EXACTLY RIGHT, NOBODY votes in this town!!! :Like the recent school referendums vote last week where only 1200 people voted… SAD! Basicly teachers voted in their own raises. And $170,000 for an administrator in this little town is ridiculous!

    • Avatar

      Tom Skipper Reply Report comment

      April 10, 2018 at 10:12 pm

      Well Tricia, that’s because he was only there 2,years. That’s not long enough to make any decisions that would alienate anyone.

      • Avatar

        Anonymous Reply Report comment

        April 10, 2018 at 10:19 pm

        He has not even started the job in Mason city yet and he has seem to already alienate plenty of people here.

  10. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 10, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Shickel leading Mason City on how not to conduct business and leading us down the rabbit hole. I am glad council let Bill negotiate to pay a less experienced administrator than the one we had and pay him an extra $21000.00 a year in salary. Not to mention Lee and Symonds opening Mason City up to a possible age discrimation lawsuit because they dismissed older more experienced candidates who they met and they now higher a more youthful inexperienced one that they haven’t met at a higher pay scale. You get what you vote for which is not much.

    • Avatar

      F Lee Bailey Reply Report comment

      April 10, 2018 at 10:15 pm

      Clearly Matt has spoken with one of the other candidates. My guess is the guy from Minnesota that sued the mayor. He may have a case here. I don’t know all their ages, but age is a protected issue from discrimination. This could be expensive to defend.

  11. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 10, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    $170,000 for a town this size.Now the rest of them will want a raise.Coming to a town where the average wage for job is $12.00 hr.If it is more than that I would see proof from some news site

  12. Avatar

    Sam Collins Reply Report comment

    April 10, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Sounds like maybe one of the guys that was rejected may not be too happy about the new process. I can’t blame him. I recall one of them had sued one of the cities he worked for. I doubt there is anything to it, but time to move on and make the best of it.

  13. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 10, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. None yo business! Just shut up and pay your taxes! The Anderson, Pickle, Lee & gang feel no need or responsibility for honesty or transparency to the citizens they supposedly represent…. …what’s new?

  14. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 10, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    What if he’s an asset to the community? What if he turns out to be great at his job?

    Lots of Negativity In Town (see what I did there?) 🙂

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      April 10, 2018 at 8:01 pm

      Good one, typical NIT.
      But then when you’re a loser site like NIT, that is to be expected.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      April 10, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      I don’t blame NIT for the negativity. The Chamber is the most negative group of people I have ever come across. I think all the negativity is caused by the lack of positive ideas and leadership.