Many vacancies among city staff

August 10, 2011

BY PAULA MINAERT — Two key positions in the city staff – assistant city administrator and director of parks and recreation – became open with the recent departures of Vincent Jones and Steve Yeskulsky.

The city has seen a fair amount of staff turnover recently. It has had two parks directors and two treasurers in the last two years. Also, it has not had a director of code enforcement since October 2009; Senior Inspector Chris Guinta serves as acting director. Communications Manager Abby Sandel is currently serving as acting director of recreation and the arts. Two other key positions were created in this year’s budget, meaning that out of a total of 11 senior staff positions in the city administration, four are currently open.

The two new positions are a chief information officer, who would provide information technology support to administrative staff and the police, and a human resources manager.

The city council was supposed to discuss engaging a recruiting firm to help with the hiring at its Aug. 1 meeting. But that discussion, and all council business, came to a halt when the council unexpectedly had to cancel the meeting for lack of a quorum.

City Administrator Gregory Rose said that the increasing size and complexity of the city organization – it now has about 100 employees – means it needs greater expertise to manage things like human resources. Councilmember Tim Hunt (Ward 3) pointed out that the police department in particular has acquired some new programs and technology, such as Safe City and the CAD system, that require more IT support.

In addition, two other positions were just authorized this year: a part-time senior services coordinator and a second parking officer.

Rose said that getting a director for code enforcement would probably need to wait for an overall restructuring of the city staff, something he said the city council has been considering for some time.

“I’m working with council and staff [to determine] the best structure for this organization. We’ve started the process and will continue to move forward with it. We hope that the HR manager will be hired prior to completing the restructuring.”

Sandel said that any time a long-term administrator leaves, a re-examination of the organization is inevitable. Former City Administrator Elaine Murphy left in March after more than 11 years.

Mayor Marc Tartaro said that the city is moving in the right direction in terms of staffing.

“My perception is that in the past the city was run more like a family-run business. Given the economy and where we are now, we want people to perform at a higher level: smart, empowered to make decisions, and if they make a mistake, they learn from it. It’s a different kind of model.” he said. “My goal is to give people that opportunity and I think all of them would succeed.”

The city council selects department heads with staff input. According to Rose, 11 recruitment firms submitted proposals for the job of filling one position, the CIO; the bids ranged from about $12,000 to $30,000. The proposal on the Aug. 1 agenda was to contract with the Mercer Group for recruitment of the CIO person and other services, for a cost not to exceed $50,000.

However, some councilmembers wanted the process to focus on hiring the human resources person first. At the July 25 council meeting, Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5) said, “We’ve needed a good HR person for a long time. We’ve had the appropriation in the budget for the last two years, yet we still don’t have one.  It’s ridiculous, the amount of money we’ve spent in the last several years on recruiting for different positions in the city – remember the turnovers? – because we don’t have our own HR person.”