Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Audit Report Spurs Concern

An audit report triggered new City Council concerns Monday about the lack of key cabinet members to address fiscal matters.

The city is now in its third year without a permanent chief financial officer, a title required by the state. The state Division of Local Government Services last fall demanded that the city stop using acting or interim CFOs to certify funding was available before the governing body voted on spending, but the same person who was signing certifications at the time of the admonishment is still doing so.

The administration contends there is a lack statewide of certified CFOs for hire. Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs specifically stated Monday that candidates will not come to Plainfield for the pay offered, which prompted Councilman Cory Storch to ask her directly whether the administration was willing to hire a CFO at “market rate.”

The mayor responded that the city has someone ”performing the duties” of a CFO. One of the questions being asked of candidates, she said, is whether they can be available by April.
“We are near - we are close. We are making strides,” she said.

In addition, the city’s special charter requires three department heads, one being a director of Administration & Finance. The role was expanded in the mid-1990s to include oversight of health and social services. During the first four years of the mayor’s incumbency, the title was handed off half a dozen times to various individuals. Her second term began Jan. 1 with Bibi Taylor named acting city administrator as well as acting AFH&SS director. Taylor was scheduled to leave Jan. 31, but has been appointed city administrator for a four-year term concurrent with the mayor’s. However, no one else has been named to head the department.

Looking at the audit report which all council members must sign, Councilman William Reid said he read it and understands it, but deplored the findings. Reid said they showed a city that is not doing what it should do, that there were repeat findings and more than before. While he said he could understand the problems in the absence of a CFO and a finance director, he asked for a consultant to come in quarterly “to review and question people” who are supposed to be taking care of fiscal matters.

The report was not available to the public last night, but past reports have included such simple matters as depositing money in the bank on time and not making purchases without a purchase order.

Reid also said the city has no information technology system in place to monitor transactions, saying he was particularly upset with the purchasing division. The practice of purchasing without a purchase order could be stopped, he said, by simply not paying the vendor.

Late in the discussion, Storch was still asking the mayor whether she was willing to pay market rate for a CFO, but Robinson-Briggs reminded him the city had just laid off employees, calling the matter “a very sensitive area.”

Councilwoman Linda Carter then pressed for “hiring the best” and taking the money from somewhere else.

According to a “salary band” report obtained by Plaintalker, the CFO’s minimum salary for 2010 would be $82,067 and the maximum would be $113,418, on a par with the city clerk, chief engineer and confidential aide for community development. Department heads for AFH&SS and Public Works & Urban Development had salary bands from $85,048 to $117,342, while the third, Public Affairs & Safety, had a salary band of $92,793 to $134,290.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Tony said...

Typical of Plainfield critics who wants the best and want to pay least. We act as if we are shopping for a sale at J.C Penny. All you read on the blogs are people criticizing people making six figure salaries and the tax payer having to foot the bill. If you want someone qualified you have to at least pay market value. To work in a city like Plainfield with all of its financial woes you will have to pay more. Are we willing to pay more?

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am tired of hearing about people not coming to Plainfield because of blah, blah, blah. Aren't these members supposed to live IN Plainfield.

What about various people who live in this city who have the credentials of CFO. Adrian Mapp comes to mind. Now, if Councilman Mapp does not want the job, that is a different story. But Councilman Mapp is one of many people who have the smarts and credentials to be a CFO and live in this city. What is the problem?

How about expanding the universe and getting someone out of the government arena to take the job. I am sure there are several out of work corporate CFO's who would be available. I understand there are credentials that are required. Can these credentials not be aquired while the candidate is in office after a specified period of time?

The real problem is simple. The mayor has no idea how to manage, has no leadership qualities, and no idea what it takes to run a company. For whatever reason, she is blind to her weaknesses and will do nothing to address that and learn how to be a successful leader. Our hope is that she leans heavily on our City Administrator, who I wish was the mayor.

The mayor certainly has the mental capacity, she just has an out of control ego.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do I understand that Plainfield is trying to hire a CFO, in a tight market, for less than the going rate? Is it not bad enough that we have a reputation for being dysfunctional, now we're cheap, too?

On the other hand, perhaps a borderline candidate can come in for less than he would want to get paid, do the job for 6 months, and than get a raise and promotion by claiming that another municipality is hot for them. It could happen.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course hiring a CFO is a "sensitive area" now that we've signed a Memorandum of Understanding in order to receive the $250K of extraordinary aid from the Trenton.

We've got a hiring freeze for new employees. There's salary freeze for everyone not covered by a current contract. All advertising for any new employees needs to be approved by the State, and any job applications and resumes must be submitted to the State for approval, assuming we are granted a waiver.

It sure is sensitive, and it's time City voters too got sensitive about the poor leadership we have in the Mayor's office. If we can get the signatures of 1/3 the registered voters we can force a recall election within 3 months.

That might only be a little more difficult than finding a new CFO, but perhaps easier on all of us than waiting 3 1/2 years with who we have in office today.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:22 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home