Council: Public needs to be part of discussion

Committees to explore ideas for finance director, assistant city administrator jobs

The Jefferson City Council likely will be entering discussions in the next few weeks about what to do with the city’s finance director position and whether the city should create a previously planned assistant city administrator position.

Last week, a bill to combine the positions of information technology director and finance director was withdrawn by 1st Ward Councilman and bill sponsor Bob Weber, who said the process to create the assistant city administrator position was not done in the best way.

On Jan. 23, Jefferson City announced the promotion of Bill Betts, current information technology services director, to the yet-to-be created position of assistant city administrator. The new position would have combined 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 couldn’t take place until the new position officially was created in open session, which was scheduled to happen last week.

But what happens next is still unclear. The one consistent opinion is that an open discussion needs to be had on the merits of creating the assistant city administrator position.

Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner said he believes the concept of an assistant city administrator is not bad, but a bill to create the position is premature. The council still needs to know what the public thinks about the position, he said.

“I’d like for us to continue to explore that and do it through the committee process,” Scrivner said. “I think it was unpopular because of how it was done.”

Scrivner said the council now needs to see the proposal vetted properly in open sessions, so the public can be a part of the discussion.

The city still needs some type of finance director, he said, and Betts is doing a great job in the interim.

“I’ve been impressed with what he’s given us,” Scrivner said.

Second Ward Councilman J. Rick Mihalevich said he wants to see the proposal go through both the administration and finance committees for full discussion.

Fifth Ward Councilman Ralph Bray said the whole process needs to start over with a good discussion about whether the city should reorganize or simply fill the finance director position.

“We need to step back and look at the big picture and decide on a course of action,” Bray said.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll said she just wants to see the proposal go through the committee process.

“That was a key missing component,” Carroll said. “I would still like to see Bill Betts in the position.”

Carroll said she has been impressed by Betts’ performance as interim finance director, but she believes the city still needs someone to oversee finance alone. She said she would support a move to have Betts in the assistant city administrator position and have the city hire some type of chief financial officer who would report to Betts.

Fifth Ward Councilman Larry Henry said he also believes the city needs to hire some type of finance director but the question is how to go about it.

“We need to go back to the drawing board,” Henry said.

As for the position of assistant city administrator, Henry said he would like to see an independent study done on whether that type of position would be right for Jefferson City.

So far, no formal discussion has been scheduled on the issue at the Council Committee on Administration meeting Wednesday. The Finance Committee isn’t scheduled to meet until March 26.

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