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Council mulls new dual position

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Some Jefferson City Council members have questioned if a new bill to combine the positions of IT director and finance director will violate the city charter.

On Jan. 23, the city announced the promotion of current information technology services director Bill Betts to the yet-to-be-created position of assistant city administrator. The new position would combine the IT director and finance director positions after the city’s two national searches failed to find a new finance director.

The promotion was decided in a closed session vote Jan. 22, though it technically won’t take place until the new position officially is created in open session later this month.

City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said the move will increase the efficiency of city management and bring better reporting to the council.

But several council members asked whether the move would violate the city charter.

Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner said the ordinance changes titles, which is well within the council’s power, but it would not be able to change any references made to the finance director position in the charter without an official charter amendment, which requires a vote of the people.

City Attorney Drew Hilpert said the charter specifies a chief fiscal officer and though one could read more into it, the practice is to simply take it at its word.

“I don’t believe you’re violating the charter,” Hilpert said.

Article VII of the charter, which details financial procedures of the city, states “the head of the finance department shall be designated the fiscal officer of the city. Qualifications, duties and powers of the fiscal officer shall be set by ordinance.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Ralph Bray echoed Scrivner’s comments, but added he believes the bill will benefit the city overall.

“It sounds pretty good and I think it has legs,” Bray said. “I hope the public will take the time to see how this might serve them.”

In response to a question from the council, Human Resources Director Gail Strope said her department currently is putting together the official job description for the assistant city administrator position.

Mayor Eric Struemph said they would know in a few days how the move would affect the finance and IT departments and their personnel.

Second Ward Councilman Shawn Schulte requested a breakdown of the current budgeted amount for the finance director position, the proposed salary for the new position and any increased salaries for IT personnel, factoring in benefits, to see what the savings of combining the positions will really be.

No decision has been made about the salary of the new position, though the ordinance to create it specifies a range of $86,477.61 to $129,716.41. Once the ordinance is approved at the next council meeting on Feb. 19, the council will go into closed session to decide and approve Betts’ new salary. As IT director, Betts earns a salary of $95,000.

The bill summary states the merging of the two positions will save the city $110,000 per year by eliminating the finance director position and salary.

Three Jefferson City residents spoke against the bill Monday night, stating the city needs to have an employee solely dedicated to the city’s finances.

Glen Costales said the finance director is meant to ensure the city’s finances are in order, to manage financial risk and to help people invest wisely.

“The position of finance director is too important to be someone’s additional duty,” Costales said. “We, the citizens of Jefferson City, deserve a finance director.”

Charles Gaskin said the move could affect the state’s overall ranking as one of the top 10 pro-business states.

“What has been reported in the newspaper here recently … to me, does not look very professional and it doesn’t look good,” he said. “This could affect our national ranking.”

Gaskin said he did not know or have anything against Betts, but he objects to the idea of having what he called two key departments being run by one man. Gaskin said the move may be in violation of the city’s own “good standards, practices and procedures.”

“I hate to say this, but right now I am embarrassed by you,” Gaskin said to the council.

Len Stella, who is running for the Third Ward council seat currently held by Bryan Pope, said the reorganization is “too person specific.”

“What happens in the future when that one person isn’t here,” Stella said. “I think those positions should remain separate.

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