In other business last night (Tue 1-14-14), finance director Jay Sweeney again took center stage as the assembly considered reclassifying his position.
Municipal administrator Mark Gorman has the authority to reorganize city hall any way he likes, without seeking assembly approval. But he considers Sweeney’s position “critical” and asked for the assembly’s support nonetheless.
Gorman asked the assembly to approve designating Sweeney as the city’s Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, and moving the Finance, Information Services, and Human Resources departments under his supervision.
Gorman said he’s already heard from people who have reservations about the move.
“Why add another layer of bureaucracy in the system? I don’t see it that way. In fact, I see it as creating synergies, where we have an opportunity to reduce some inefficiencies and possibly achieve some economies of scale.”
Gorman stressed that there would still be three separate departments under Sweeney, and that Sweeney’s current deputy finance director, Mike Middleton, would remain in that role, but assume more responsibility.
Assembly members expressed support for the plan. Pete Esquiro wanted to know what would happen if things were left the way they are.
“The downside is that we continue business-as-usual. I think business-as-usual has worked well. The structure’s going to change in the next couple of years, and we’ll organize ourselves in a much more efficient way, and allow for the capacities that we see in staff such as Jay to really contribute in different ways to the strategic initiatives of the City and Borough of Sitka.”
Member Phyllis Hackett wondered if the reorganization would only be effective with Gorman and Sweeney in the roles, but Gorman reassured her that a CFAO was becoming more common among Alaskan municipalities.
Member Aaron Swanson had reservations about increasing Sweeney’s workload, but Sweeney appeared ready for broader duties supporting the administrator.
“I view my role here as helping this gentleman succeed, in whatever way that may be. If this role changes somewhat, and if some of the duties he’s assigned make less sense, and something else makes more sense — then if I can help him in this way so that the overall goals he’s stated, better managing the municipality and achieving some of the initiatives he’s stated — that’s what I envision doing here.”
Sweeney added that he wanted no additional compensation for the new title.
Gorman said he wanted to move slowly, and make the transition over a couple of years. He anticipated that some of the other 14 departments in the city government eventually could be streamlined in the same way.
The assembly voted unanimously to endorse Jay Sweeney’s redesignation as Sitka’s Chief Financial and Administrative Officer.