York City overhauls hiring practices after Nace town hall

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Council Mayor Michael Helfrich responds during a town hall meeting concerning his hiring of Blanda Nace as chief opportunity development officer, Monday, June 24, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

York City has updated its job advertising policies a day after Mayor Michael Helfrich was lambasted at a town hall meeting addressing the appointment of Blanda Nace as the city's chief opportunity development officer.

Monday's contentious town hall brought in more than 70 residents and lasted more than three hours, as City Council members and residents alike criticized Helfrich and his hiring of Nace. 

Just a day later, Helfrich said his administration will begin sending out weekly job advertisements via its email list, post job bulletins in City Hall and help provide computer access to those who don't have access to the internet job postings.

"I think (the meeting) was a good place to start a conversation, and we've already taken some actions," Helfrich said. "I try to take value out of any experience that I have. While obviously there was a lot of negativity and things I didn't agree with, there were action items I could pull out of there."

More:York City Council members, citizens, judge and more blast Mayor Helfrich at town hall

More:York City Council wants answers about Nace's appointment

The changes stem from two meetings between Helfrich and the Human Relations Department on Tuesday morning and were made in response to criticism that hirings such as Nace's should be available to more applicants. 

Last month, Nace accepted the post in Helfrich's administration after a seven-day hiring period. The appointment didn't require council confirmation because it wasn't to a director position.

Multiple speakers Monday, including City Council President Henry Nixon, said the seven-day time period was too short. There haven't been talks about raising the current three-day minimum for advertising jobs, Helfrich said Tuesday.

York City Council President Henry Nixon tells Tonya Thompson-Morgan, not shown, she is out of line during a town hall meeting concerning Mayor Michael Helfrich's hiring of Blanda Nace as chief opportunity development officer, Monday, June 24, 2019. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Nixon, who on Monday said the town hall was "proof (Helfrich) has had no experience whatsoever in running anything,” said Tuesday the meeting went "pretty much as expected."

"I think we all on council wanted to work with the mayor during his first year and a half, but this last bit of shenanigans show things are very strained," Nixon said.

Those strained relations were made visible at the town hall, where both the council and Helfrich were animated and flustered on multiple occasions.

One audience member noted — and Nixon agreed — that it's a bad look for an administration to butt heads with the City Council. 

"I would hope that (the town hall) makes a difference," Nixon said Tuesday. "I serve on City Council because I want to try and make a difference for our city. I assume that's what the mayor wants too, and given we have the same goals, I think there's room for improved relations. A lot of it will be on the mayor."

Helfrich also acknowledged the strained relations with the council.

"Honestly, (the relationship) is not different than it's been," Helfrich said. "I don't know what the reason is, but the good news is that even though there seemed to be tensions, I know for a fact we all have the same goals. It's just a matter of getting there."

The mayor and council will be meeting on July 24 to further look into Helfrich's plans for community development, including the Group Violence Initiative and Community Ecosystem Initiative. 

They will meet again in late August to discuss economic development as well, Helfrich said. That will touch on a $2,500 study conducted by York College and York City-based eManagement Solutions about ways to develop small businesses in local neighborhoods.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.