FORT WORTH — Craig Malin, the city administrator of Davenport, Iowa, got great reviews from the town’s long-serving mayor and improved technology and customer satisfaction and during his 13-year tenure.Malin and three other finalists for Fort Worth city manager interview Tuesday with council members.He didn’t escape his time as city administrator of Davenport without criticism. Malin, 51, and the City of Davenport were both sued by a strip club, Chorus Line, for keeping the business from re-opening after it had closed briefly in 2008, eventually costing the city $270,000 in a settlement. Malin acted as both the investigator for the permit and hearing officer for the appeal, and a state district court ruled in December 2009 that “Craig Malin assumed a personal commitment to a particular result, that is, the denial of the license” and ordered the city to permit the business. A Quad-City Times editorial entitled “ Taxpayers stuck with the world’s largest cover charge,” says that “judge after judge determined Malin exceeded his authority by investigating, then serving in his role as hearing administrator.” Multiple lawsuits and appeals were involved.Malin said he was acting as city ordinance prescribed. “So what happened through the court cases was effectively the courts determined that our appeal process should not have the city administrator as the hearing officer. City council settled the case and then the City council changed the code so my position is no longer the hearing officer,” Malin said. Malin made national news in 2010, when ABC News did a story on the change of the city calendar from Good Friday to “Spring Holiday.” The national story quotes a city news release saying, “City Administrator Malin, in error, forwarded the recommendation to staff for further review and action, leading to release of a holiday notice with the holiday named 'Spring Holiday,' rather than "Good Friday.” Malin said “the media created a story” from the issue, and that he never changed the name of Good Friday, but that a misunderstood memo led to the confusion. Mayor Bill Gluba, who took office in 2008, said the he “hates to lose” Malin. “Craig thinks outside the box. He is innovative and creative. I think that is something most cities need and we are glad to have that,” said Gluba. “Even though he doesn’t set the policies, he certainly sees what the big picture is and certainly tries to move the city council in that direction.”Malin makes a base salary of $184,454 a year. Gluba said Malin knows the importance of economic development and maintaining city infrastructure and he was instrumental in making Davenport the first city to become nationally accredited in police, fire, public works and library departments, which requires continuing education for employees.Malin made information and technology its own department that reported directly to him. From there, the city created mobile applications to engage citizens, invested in a new enterprise resource platform and placed 5th in its population category for the country’s most digital cities in a study by the Center for Digital Government in 2013. The center evaluated open government and transparency; mobility and mobile applications; budget and cost control; information technology personnel; broadband connectivity; cyber security; shared services; cloud computing; disaster recovery and visualization.Malin said the city overall has improved workforce efficiencies by 62 percent using new technology and training. In addition, Davenport won the City Livability Award in the small-city category from the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2007 for its “far-reaching” waterfront development plans and branding the Quad Cities “as having one of the most compelling riverfronts in the nation,” according to a news release. “Davenport has been recognized as the nation’s most livable small city and Fort Worth is growing while trying to maintain a small town character and I am perfectly situated for that,” Malin said, adding that switching from managing a smaller city to Fort Worth would not be difficult.Thought it has a population of 101,000, Davenport is the largest of the Quad Cities, a metropolitan area with a population of 382,000. Malin said it shares many of the same challenges as Fort Worth, with a population of just under 800,000, including public transportation, a riverfront vision and budgeting. Public transit and multimodal transportation have been a priority for Malin and are a way to engage citizens, he said — for example, Davenport offers free bus fare to students. His passion for public transportation comes from growing up in a modest household in Chicago.“I could hop the red line, take the bus or ride my bike to the art museums and have access to the world’s finest art just like the very wealthy. That was extraordinary. That was life-changing,” Malin said.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst