.

Town Council Nixes New Deputy Finance Director Position

The proposal to promote town accountant Heidi Meade to Deputy Finance Director/Deputy Comptroller went down in a 5-4 decision.

Heidi Meade is an accountant in the town Finance Department, but she is also a key player at budget time and someone who has put in long hours on the switch to the new Munis fiscal management system. Whenever Finance Dir. Carl Tomchik has been away, Meade is the one who leads the department.

Several town officials want to create a Deputy Finance Director position for Meade, who they see as the logical successor for Tomchik. But the majority of Town Council members believe the new position should have been proposed during the last budget process — not months afterward.

Meade holds a union accountant position and Local 818 of Council 4 AFSCME came to an agreement with the town and Meade Monday night to release her from the union, so she could accept the Deputy Director of Finance/Deputy Comptroller position.

When Town Councilman Nick Kapoor made a motion to approve the new position pending approval of the memorandum agreement with the union, Councilman J.P. Sredzinski expressed concerns over the timing.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Interested in Monroe's news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free Monroe Patch daily newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

________________________________________________________________________________________

"If it's approved after the budget process, I feel it would appear to be expanding the Finance Department and hiding it from the voters," Sredzinski said, stressing that his position has to do with the procedure and nothing to do with Meade's job performance.

After spirited debate, the Town Council defeated the motion 5-4, with Chairwoman Enid Lipeles, Kapoor, Dee Dee Martin and Raymond Knapp voting in favor and Vice Chairwoman Deborah Heim, Sredzinski, Frank Lieto, Debra Dutches and Tony Unger voting against it.

Plan for the Future

Board of Finance Vice Chairman Michael Manjos expressed strong support for making Heidi Meade deputy director of the Finance Department in a letter read into the record by Lipeles.

In his letter, Manjos wrote:

Any organization must properly plan for the future. Proper planning will ensure a smooth transition and ensure that knowledge and experience is transferred from one employee to the successor. We have a very experienced and talented Director of Finance and we want to make sure of a smooth transition when he decides to retire.

Heidi had been our staff accountant for many years. She has a strong accounting background and has a strong working knowledge of municipal accounting and has patience and understanding. She has the ability to work with many different personalities and is well respected by all.

Manjos spoke of establishing financial guidelines and structured policies for the town, which will remain in place as people come and go. He wrote:

In order to accomplish these goals we will need to develop and compensate talented people to keep continuity in the office and to improve our processes. I believe we could open this process up and interview scores of people, but we are not looking to expand staff, just to develop the talent we already have. Even if I could find a qualified candidate on paper, they would not be able to replicate the experience in Town Hall and the work ethic we have with Heidi.

'In a Dark Place'

First Selectman Steve Vavrek said there was an intent to come before the council to create the Deputy Finance Director position for "a couple months", but explained that union issues were not resolved until earlier Monday night.

"This is one of the most important people in town other than Carl in the budget process," he said. "I think it would be a grave mistake not to approve this position."

Sredzinski expressed confidence in Meade as a valuable member of the town staff, but reiterated his stance against approving a new position after the operating budget has already been adopted.

Lieto praised Meade for her responsiveness in answering questions during budget time. But he said approving a new position now would show a "lack of transparency to the public."

"I hope this comes up at budget time, which is just around the corner," Lieto said.

Vavrek expressed his belief that the town will be in trouble if Meade leaves town hall for another job.

"We're going to be in a dark place because we literally have no back up and it has to get done tonight," he said. "I'm really hoping we get the votes to pass this thing."

Kapoor said he understood the concern over the timing of creating a new position, but the Democratic Town Committee chairman added with a little levity, "As much as this tastes like vinegar coming out of my mouth, I have to agree with Mr. Vavrek. I hope this passes for the benefit of the town."

Dutches said there should be a resolution making such requests include the funding information.

Unger said the proposed position would be giving someone already giving 100 percent, 30 percent more responsibility. "Something has to give," Unger said.

Sredzinski said, "I don't want to see that knowledge and experience go out the door, but we have that risk with every good employee. We're really not losing anything. We're just creating a new position."

Last Words

During the last public session, Steve Schapiro criticized the town for poor budgeting and said the first selectman failed to step up to the plate and propose creation of the Deputy Finance Director position during the last budget cycle.

Then Vavrek reiterated his argument that the union issue held it up.

After the meeting, Kapoor said, "Even though the first selectman didn't address this position in his budget, I feel that Ms. Meade's increase in duties and salary would benefit the short term and long term plans for the town of Monroe."

jim laguardia September 11, 2012 at 11:28 AM
a "dark place" was that a freudian slip??
Alex September 11, 2012 at 01:00 PM
"But the majority of Town Council members believe the new position should have been proposed during the last budget process" Agreed, table it for next year. Is she threatening to leave if she doesn't get the new position? Why can this not wait to be budgeted in next year? I don't see the union issue as being the hold up as that would conclude that the position was being made solely for Ms. Meade. What if she couldn't take the position? Would that mean the town didn't need the new position? Otherwise the position would have been created during budget time as a need for the town regardless to whom can fill it.
Carol Banner September 11, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Great article, Bill. It shows how unions and partisanship hurt towns. Their only by products are fear and distrust. Good job! - Carol Banner, Editor, EyeOnMonroe.com
Peg September 11, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Carol Banner would you please expand on your statement. I don't understand. The article, sounded to me like the union agreed and, the town council sees the need, but prefers to wait until the proper time to bring this forward matter. Where is the fear and distrust? The partisanship? The union problem? Or perhaps you have information not in this article? Thanks for your time. I am interested.
Rt25 September 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I read it as the union agreed to the proposal and the union could not have agreed unless the employee agreed. I do have one question, why is the new salary not mentioned - doesn't the public have a right to know what they will now be obligated to pay. I am disappointed that 4 council members voted for this without knowing what the salary obligation would be, or did they know, and it is being kept from the public? This whole process seems like another administrative mess due to incompetent people.
Rt25 September 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM
And, Mr. Kapoor, you supported this. Did you know the salary and agreed to withhold the information from the public? Or did you not know and voted for it anyway? Either way makes you out to be a little hypocritical based on your blast of the FS regarding legal fees, doesn't it?
Donna Gail September 12, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Rt 25, you don't seem to have a basic knowledge of how certain issues are handled. From what I know, specific personnel matters are usually discussed in executive session (not in front of the public), and then are voted on as soon as council comes back from executive session. If these kinds of rules are being followed, why should you single out Mr. Kapoor? He is the newest member of the Council. He doesn't set these policies. There are lots of legal matters discussed that are all done in executive session while the public waits out in the lobby.
Steve Kirsch September 12, 2012 at 02:53 PM
It is my understanding that the TC did know the increase and had information from the BOF as to where funds could be found in the budget to cover the increase. Obviously spending the relatively small amount of dollars for a salary increase can not compare to overspending 5 or 6 hundred thousand dollars on legal fees. Besides, don’t you think that Mr. Kapoor’s actions in supporting the First Selectman should be considered good, bipartisan, cooperation? I find it more telling that most of the Republicans voted against their leader
Alex September 12, 2012 at 03:41 PM
While it rarely does happen, elected officials should always vote for what they believe is in the best interest of their constituents no matter what how other party members vote. I tend to not trust politicians who always vote for with their party.
Joey September 12, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Not only are the legal expenses up to $800,000 and counting, Vavrek has been hiring plenty of new faces at town hall.
Herman M September 12, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I think Ms. Meade should quit based on how she was treated at that meeting.
Cara J. Kramer September 12, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Tattle, that's a very enticing comment. Any further elaboration?

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something