Elizabeth City City Council hopes to name a new city manager by November.

But the search is already off to a rocky start after Councilor Darius Horton questioned if councilors had authorized spending $18,000 to hire a professional search firm to conduct the search.

Council is searching for a new manager because Rich Olson, city manager for almost 17 years, announced in June he plans resign effective Aug. 22. Olson is leaving to become the town administrator in Argyle, Texas.

The city has hired Developmental Associates, a Chapel Hill-based firm, to conduct a nationwide search for Olson’s replacement. City Council was given a search timeline Monday night that has council tentatively interviewing finalists for the manager’s job the third week of October.

Council’s search committee — Mayor Bettie Parker and Councilors Michael Brooks, Billy Caudle, Chris Ruffieux and Johnnie Walton — selected Developmental Associates on July 16 but Horton contended Monday the full council needed to sign off on an agreement that costly.

“I don’t recall even taking a vote to hire Development Associates,” Horton said. “They have already been hired to work for the council, but the council has not voted on it. What authority is the mayor’s search committee working under? We didn’t vote on hiring them, to my knowledge.’’

Parker told Horton that all council members were invited to the July 13 meeting where all three professional search firms were interviewed. The city sent out a request for proposal to search firms in late June, receiving six before the search committee narrowed the list to three.

Parker said at the July 13 meeting that the search committee could select which firm to hire after the three firms were interviewed on July 16.

“We (search committee) were given by the council the authority to pick from the RFP’s (request for proposals) that came in,” Parker said. “We wanted to streamline it so we could get through this as expeditiously as we could.”

Horton countered that there is no reason to “rush” to find Olson’s replacement.

“If it takes three months, that is fine,” Horton said. “If it takes six months, that is fine.’’

Parker said that the city will conduct a “thorough” search.

Dr. Stephen Straus will lead the search for Developmental Associates and is scheduled to meet with City Council four times.

The first of those meetings, and the only open meeting during the search process, will be Monday where a candidate profile will be established that will be included in a recruitment brochure.

Before Monday’s meeting, Straus will interview the city’s department directors and Olson to develop a community profile that will be included in the recruitment brochure.

“You will provide (Straus on Monday) what you are looking for in a perfect city manager candidate,” Olson told council. “Dr. Straus will be asking a lot of questions.’’

The brochure will be completed by Aug. 21, which is when the job will be posted in “professional journals,” Olson said.

“That is when the search process will officially begin,” he said.

The final three meetings — Sept. 21, Oct. 5 and Oct. 16 — will be used to trim the pool of city manager applicants to between three and five candidates for final interviews. Those final interviews are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 22-23.

“It’s an aggressive timeline,” Olson said.