Tuesday, August 28, 2018

City Goes Without Finance Director for Months

Seven months and counting and, still, the City has no Finance Director. 

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The City recently took the Finance Director job listing off its website. Either the listing did not attract the type of applicant the City wanted, or the City is close to an announcement that it has made a hire. Let's hope the latter is the case. 

Here is a screenshot of the job description that the City posted.

You may find helpful this briefer description of the important responsibilities typically assigned to a City's finance director:   

`"Finance directors have broad authority in city government. As the chief bookkeeper, a finance director promotes transparency, efficiency, and accountability. While finance directors may only have a basic understanding of the different city departments, their financial expertise is invaluable in ensuring citizens get the most out of their tax money and in proving so. Numbers go further than rhetoric in proving that tax money is collected and spent according to the public’s best interest."

A position of this importance -- the most recent Finance Director, Paul Turner, was paid $130,000 per year -- should not remain open for months on end. Unfortunately, the City has not had a Finance Director since January 19. Former Finance Director Ralph Gabb has been used in a limited way since that time, but that is no substitute for having a full-time Finance Director on staff.

Mr. Turner began serving as finance director in August 2016. On January 10 of 2018, he submitted his resignation.  

Here is a clip from a May 2017 work session in which Mr. Turner asks for an additional accountant to assist him: 

I find particularly concerning Mr. Turner's contention that the  City did not have enough accountants. He pointed out in this Work Session that, while there are accounting clerks, there is a dearth of actual accountants who can perform financial analyses. 

Not only was Mr. Turner not given the additional accounting support he sought, Mr. Turner is himself now gone --
 and no replacement has been hired!     

Mr. Turner's January 2018 exit interview is also noteworthy:

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Notice that Mr. Turner did not check a single box "very satisfied". And, when asked if he had been given the opportunity to get tasks done, he checked the "very dissatisfied" box.  His commentary, as you can see, is hardly comforting: 

"I don't feel many people in the City understand and appreciate what Finance does." 

"I was not always supported throughout the year and undermined by other departments." 

"I was questioned and undermined by several departments and people throughout the year. My initiatives were not taken seriously and instead questioned and undermined with no support....(snip)......some colleagues have formed cliques that seem to be more important than process improvement for citizens."  

I of course have no way of knowing whether Mr. Turner's evaluation of his job situation is accurate. What I do know is that any municipality, if it is to be run competently, must have a finance director who is trusted and respected. And, it goes without saying that other personnel must fully understand the importance of the responsibilities assigned to this crucial position. 

As some of you will recall, I started this blog when I learned that the City Administrator received a car allowance while simultaneously using a city-issued car and claimed he didn't realize it. As a former finance director, I was shocked. It was clear to me that financial control systems were sorely missing.  As I began to look into this, I came to the realization that the City's organizational structure seemed specifically designed to undermine the "checks and balances" process. For me, it is a glaring red flag when Payroll, which should report directly to the Finance Director, is instead made part of Human Resources and reports directly to the City Administrator.
Although Payroll has since been shifted to Finance, the requisite checks and balances are still missing because the City has no Finance Director after several months. The red flag continues to glare brightly as the financial ship remains rudderless. 

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