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Charlotte Area

Charlotte gets help from search firm that took former transit chief

The City of Charlotte is looking for some help to hire a new head of the Charlotte Area Transit System. The only problem is the search firm the city has tapped is the same one that helped recruit former CATS CEO Keith Parker to San Antonio. WFAE's Lisa Miller has more: KL Executive Search comes with glowing references from several transit agencies that have used the firm to fill their top jobs, including VIA Metropolitan Transit Authority in San Antonio. And there's the rub. Earlier this year, the search firm helped lure then CATS CEO Keith Parker to head VIA's system. That did not sit well with a few city council members including John Lassiter. At the last council meeting, Lassiter asked to bring the contract before city council. "They created our fee by taking our person and now we're going to pay them another fee to fill a job that they created," said Lassiter. "I can't support that. It's not a vote for us tonight. But that's just entirely unethical in the search business." City council decided to keep the decision in City Manager Curt Walton's hands. Walton said he picked KL Executive Search from eighteen firms. The city has agreed to pay the company $30,000 to find a new transit chief. Walton says the headhunter has an excellent record in the transit industry and had a competitive bid. Tonight, city council will review a letter the search firm sent to the city defending itself. Tony Kouneski, a partner at the firm, said the company did not violate any ethics policies in taking on Charlotte's search. He says the firm has promised not to recruit people it's placed in positions for clients, without those clients' permission. So that means Parker is off-limits. The search firm will conduct public meetings next week to get feedback on a profile for the position. A new transit chief is expected to be hired by the end of November.