Monday, March 09, 2009

New Title Floated for IT Leader

After more than an hour of detailed discussion Monday on hiring and funding a director of data processing, City Administrator Marc Dashield told the City Council a new title - manager of information processing - needs to be established by ordinance.

Passage on two readings will add many weeks to the timetable for what Dashield has recently called a job that needs to be filled immediately, within the budget year that ends June 30. The SFY 2009 budget is still not finalized, as the fourth quarter of the budget year looms.

Dashield reminded the council that he had made a presentation in October on the need for what he called then an "IT director" to plan and carry out a long-range technology plan. The city has invested in equipment to consolidate its computer systems and now has a Voice Over Internet Protocol phone system, but needs someone to manage operations.

The salary range connected to the title of director of data processing was $95,500 to $130,400. At the maximum, the director would be the second-highest paid official in the administration. Much of the discussion Monday revolved around whether in today's economy a person might accept a salary the lower range to start. No salary range was mentioned for the new title.

Funding the title was also at issue. Dashield said the funds would be offset by budget cuts. But upon questioning by Councilwoman Linda Carter, Dashield said benefits would add another $16,000 to the cost of the hire. Councilwoman Annie McWilliams and Councilman Adrian Mapp remained dubious of the costs, as extra staff will also be hired.

Dashield pressed with his explanations of the need for a high-level director, citing the arduous tasks such as doing requisitions on paper and having to copy reports for sharing. But Mapp, who is chief financial officer in a nearby municipality, said he was shocked to hear requisitions were still being done manually in the city.

As much as Dashield advocated speed in filling the position, he withdrew the ordinance before a vote on final passage March 2 and did not mention the need for a new ordinance until after a PowerPoint presentation and lengthy discussion on the issues Monday.

The delay comes as the council is making a transition to a new calendar. If the new ordinance is passed on first reading March 16, second reading is not possible until April 13. Then 20 days must elapse before it takes effect.

Once it takes effect, the administration could hire someone on a provisional basis without council advice and consent. Part of the council split on the issue is over some members' suspicion that the job is being pushed with a candidate in mind. Council President Rashid Burney asked Dashield flat out, "Has an offer been made to someone?"

After Dashield said, "No," Burney asked, "Has anyone approached you locally?"

Again, Dashield said, "No."

Burney then asked who Dashield talked to about the job. Dashield mentioned state, county and local school board officials. Burney pressed for more details and asked to have citizens as well as the council and administration take part in making an IT plan, including participation in a survey.

"I'm just a data kind of guy," Burney said.

It was only then that Dashield declared the title of director of data processing outdated and said the ordinance would be reintroduced with the new title.

The next council meeting is 8 p.m. on March 16 at Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does it sound as if the administration is going to hire someone no matter what the public thinks?

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Demand Vision First! said...

I can't believe he is back to pushing this so quickly. I hope town council stands firm. Mr. Dashield has not shown any comprehensive plan or vision for what this technology person will do. The city should have its technology plan and vision well articulated and documented PRIOR to the hiring of any tech director. There are so many people in Plainfield who would be willing and capable in serving on a technology subcommittee to develop such a vision. Even if we weren't in this economic climate, town council should make sure they have all facts before making a decision to support Mr. Dashield's push. It's quite obvious he has someone in the works. What's the process for hiring someone if the position is approved? I truly hope that this position is not approved and town council demands a more accurate picture of what the end product will look like. Town Council - Please stand firm. Say no to Mr. Dashield and his almost appointed colleague.

11:24 PM  

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