MADEIRA BEACH – A chance comment by the city attorney that the finance director is a charter officer could significantly change the governmental setup in Madeira Beach.
The remark, made during a discussion of the hiring of a city clerk at the Nov. 27 City Commission meeting, came as a shock to the commission members and city officials present. The finance director had been presumed for years to be a department head reporting to the city manager. Charter officers report directly to the commission and include City Attorney Thomas Trask, City Manager Shane Crawford and the city clerk position, which is currently unfilled.
The revelation that finance director Vincent Tenaglia is a charter officer would put him on a level with the city manager, where he now reports.
The issue came up as the commission was deciding whether to downgrade the city clerk job and have that position report to Crawford. The job would then have a lower salary, which could save the city about $25,000 a year.
During the discussion, Trask was asked to name the charter officers. Among them was the “city treasurer,” which Trask said would be Tenaglia. Of Tenaglia, Trask said, “I realize he has been reporting to Shane, but the charter provides he is a charter official.”
Crawford hired Tenaglia last April after terminating the prior finance director.
Crawford said not having the finance director as a direct report would significantly change the nature of his job.
“I spend about 90 percent of my time dealing with the budget,” he said.
Ironically, one of the reasons given for downgrading the city clerk to a position reporting to the city manager was the difficulty of oversight by the commissioners. Mayor Travis Palladeno described that situation as “having five bosses who can’t talk to each other.”
Facing a possible major change in city government, the commission directed Trask to review the city charter and code provisions on charter officers and report the findings at the next commission workshop.
The commission decided to leave the city clerk as a charter officer, although Palladeno and Commissioner Terry Lister had favored downgrading the position. That would have required a referendum vote to change the charter.
Palladeno said cities such as St. Pete Beach and Seminole had benefitted from making the city clerk a lower ranked position. Lister put it, “I like saving $25,000 a year.”
Commissioners Nancy Oakley and Robin Vander Velde were strongly opposed to making any changes to the city clerk position.
“The clerk is a huge resource for me, acting as an assistant and secretary for all of us,” said Vander Velde. She added, “Having the city clerk report to the city manager puts a level of bureaucracy between me and someone who is a very valuable resource.”
Palladeno gave up his push to downgrade the job after finding out a referendum vote would delay any action on the matter about a year. But he said the idea still made sense.
“I see no difference between a paralegal and a city clerk,” the mayor said.
Resident June Mohns disagreed. She said the city clerk position “requires a specialized professional skill set and we should keep it that way.”
The commission agreed to begin an intensive search for a city clerk immediately, using media advertising and professional association websites. Crawford said a new city clerk could be hired by mid-February.
Civil Service gets new start
Heeding the advice of the city’s labor attorney, the commission agreed to re-establish a long dormant Civil Service Commission. The committee would deal with personnel matters.
Attorney Tom Gonzalez said a number of issues have arisen regarding employees and the city’s mostly unionized workforce, which could be handled by that commission. Matters to be resolved related to personnel rules, suspensions, vacations, pay plans and the like, he said.
The Civil Service Commission has not met in a number of years, but has never been abolished, Trask informed the commission. The commission has routinely reappointed its members, even though the committee has ceased to exist, he said. The committee has five members, of which two, Alan Dill and James Curry, are current.
The commission agreed to re-establish Civil Service Commission and accept applications to fill the three vacancies. Lister said he believed the commission is “an excellent and smart example of community involvement.” Oakley said she agreed.
Parking lots to be repaired
The city will use funds set aside for street repairs to redo all public parking lots. Crawford recommended that action because the upcoming storm water control project will delay work on the roads.
“We do not have the ability to pave the streets now. There will be too much going on (with the storm water project) and we’ll have to break up the streets,” he said.
Crawford said the parking lots “are by far the worst pavement in the city.”
The coming switch to digital pay stations will further tear up the lots, he said.
“Let’s do the parking lots now because they are bad,” Vander Velde agreed.
Crawford will get bids to repair all city-owned parking lots.
Flyers declared illegal
Trask informed the commission that the placement of flyers and other advertising materials on vehicles and handing out Christmas bonuses to employees are both against the law.
The city has received numerous complaints from motorists finding advertising flyers on their windshields. Trask said the city code “prohibits anyone from sticking anything on your car for a commercial purpose.”
“It is not allowed, but it is happening,” Crawford said.
There is no need to change the code, Trask said. Just enforce it.
The city’s new code enforcement person is already at work and will address the flyer issue, Crawford promised.
The commission also learned that a new state law prohibits giving employee bonuses as a reward for work done in the past. A proposal by Lister to spend about $50,000 to give all city employees a $1,000 bonus was withdrawn.