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Finance chief’s status short-lived
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MADEIRA BEACH – The city’s top finance person, though considered a charter officer, will apparently continue to report to the city manager.

A recent opinion by City Attorney Thomas Trask that Madeira Beach Finance Director Vincent Tenaglia is a charter officer of the city and as such should report to the Board of Commissioners has been reversed, by Trask himself.

Having the finance director report to the commission would have reshaped the structure of city government, putting responsibility for the city’s $9 million budget in the hands of the commissioners, who are elected officials. The city manager has had that responsibility for years, before Trask announced at the Nov. 27 commission meeting that he had researched the city charter and found the “city treasurer” is a charter officer.

The city’s charter officials, who include Trask, City Manager Shane Crawford and the city clerk, all report to the commission. Tenaglia reports to the city manager, as have his predecessors for years.

Trask said at the commission meeting he had based his opinion that the finance director should report directly to the commission on a section of the city charter. It reads, “There shall be appointed a City Clerk, City Attorney and City Treasurer who shall serve at the pleasure of the Board of Commissioners and said officers shall be considered ‘charter officers.’”

Trask agreed to further research the charter after commission members, Crawford and some residents expressed surprise, and in Crawford’s case some dismay, at the decision.

In a letter sent to the commission members on Nov. 30, three days following the commission meeting, Trask announced he was reversing his opinion.

He said, “My opinion, after reading the entire charter, is that the Finance Director/City Treasurer is under the direction and supervision of the City Manager…” and that the city manager can terminate the finance director “without the consent of the Board of Commissioners.”

In the three-page letter, Trask cites several charter sections to back his stand. He gives specific sections, which pertain to the appointment of the city clerk (6.2), city attorney (6.3), and city manager (5.1) by the Board of Commissioners, and the city treasurer (6.4) by the city manager.

Trask later said that the charter, when read overall, is still somewhat ambiguous on the subject. The commission can make the final decision as to where the finance director reports, he said.

Crawford said he would work with whatever the commission decides. But he added, “The charter is the charter. If you read the charter in its entirety, it is clear the finance director reports to the city manager.” Crawford said that was the understanding when he was hired, and because of the huge impact the budget has on city management, “it’s the only way to run the city effectively.”
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