Citizens For A Better Norwood

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Council may cut deputy auditor to part time, but would this be good for Norwood?

Trying to decode some of Tuesday night’s council meeting is like reading tea leaves with sunglasses on in a dark room. We don’t work at City Hall, so we don’t know which personalities mesh and which don’t; but gauging from the discussion that was sparked by Councilman Schneider’s remarks about the need for the offices of the Treasurer, the Auditor and the Mayor to start cooperating in advance of a new budget analyst coming on board, something must be awry in the Personality Department at City Hall. Why else would this ordinance have appeared on the agenda:

A) Ordinance changing the deputy auditor position to a part-time hourly position without benefits, and declaring an emergency.

Here’s what is known, followed by our questions:

1. Uh oh, there’s that emergency clause again. That tells us the ordinance is ripe for motions for all 3 readings in one night and a vote to pass it immediately.

Question: What’s the rush to downgrade the position from full to part time?

2. Though the new budget analyst will report to the Safety/Service Director, s/he will interface with the Auditor’s office, and the deputy auditor will surely be called upon to spend substantial time, perhaps weeks, initially training the new employee.

Question: Again, what’s the rush to downgrade this key position to part time in view of the inevitable start-up training time and related activities that will involve the Auditor’s office?

3. Auditor Jones asked that the first reading be delayed until the next meeting when he could attend and address council about it. Council voted to remove it from the agenda.

Question: Since Auditor Jones obviously didn’t request an ordinance to cut his own deputy auditor to part time, which elected official or department head did?

4. The budget analyst position doesn’t need to be funded by cutting the deputy auditor’s hours. Council intends to take $15,000 from overage in the state examiners key to fund it this year.

Questions: Any chance the Auditor’s office pointed council in the direction of the extra money in the state examiners key? If so, doesn’t it seem like punishment if they turn around and cut his deputy auditor’s hours? If, as a result of this cut, financial information stops flowing smoothly to council and elsewhere, wouldn’t council members be punishing themselves and by extension the entire city?

So, there are really only two likely suspects here - either the Treasurer or the Administration wants this cut made. We accept we may never know which, though it’s hard to imagine the Treasurer having a motive to disrupt the operations of the Auditor’s Dept. That leaves…but then there’s this: maybe the warring parties will work out their differences soon, and this ordinance will die the natural death it should. There's way too much at stake for our city at this juncture for what has the look and feel of a misguided power play driven by a personality conflict.