By Carla O’Day
Finding a new chief executive officer has proved challenging for the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) as four of the top six candidates recently withdrew themselves from consideration, board members learned Thursday.
Chairman Bob Lucey said he wasn’t entirely sure why the candidates withdrew their names, but heard from the search firm that YouTube videos of RSCVA meetings in prior years showed hostility among board members. The lengthy hiring process was also reportedly a turnoff.
New York-based executive search firm Lapham Group had identified potential CEO candidates but their names weren’t made public. Lapham’s search fee to RSCVA will be one-third of the successful candidate’s first year cash compensation. Its minimum fee for search engagement is $100,000.
Citing vague reasons, the RSCVA board terminated CEO Chris Baum’s contract in October 2015. Baum had been with the organization almost four years and had received a three-year contract extension just eight months prior. Jennifer Cunningham, executive director of marketing, has been filling the CEO role in the interim.
The board debated starting the process over but decided against it. RSCVA has had four CEOs in the last 10 years. Two were seated, two were interim.
“My worry is us getting a reputation of where CEOs come to die,” said board vice chairman Ed Lawson, a Sparks councilman. “My worry about starting over is that it’ll be 10 (more) months without a CEO.”
The board ultimately voted to have Lucey, a Washoe County commissioner, request Lapham bring back up to five candidates to the board for recommendation. However, no minimum number of candidates was stated.
“Put a minimum on there,” said board member Kevin Winters of Harrah’s Reno. “What if there’s only one?”
Lucey said there might only be one candidate to interview. When traveling around the country, Lucey said he’s received negative feedback.
“People say Reno is a toxic environment,” Lucey said.
“What?” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve shot back.
“It’s toxic from the RSCVA standpoint,” Lucey said. “Not the city or region, just the board and what it’s done in the past.”
Schieve said open meeting laws would eventually require candidate names be put on the agenda and it’s important for the public to know who candidates are. However, some people might not be comfortable divulging their names too early.
Board member Mike Hix, who represents the chamber of commerce, said it’s common for job seekers to let their employers know they’re interested in moving on.
“It’s worth it for those individuals,” Hix said. “If we lose good candidates because they’re not willing to do that, then maybe they’re not good candidates.”
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Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.