Interim City Finance Director Bob Gazewood told his city council Monday that the reason he can’t give the council a “to-the-penny” accounting of how much money the city is spending versus how much money it’s taking in is because the finance department has not had the staff to provide those figures in a timely fashion.
Gazewood said he will have a report to the council in time for their regular council meeting this evening starting at 6. But he said it will only be “close.” He said it will take a lot of work to figure out just exactly where the city is on it’s income-to-outgo status, but he quickly added, the city is solvent – it has plenty of cash. “There has been nothing dishonest going on,” said Gazewood, who added that “several underlying causes have created the uncertainty.”
Gazewood told the council that the lack of exact figures on the town’s $10 million dollar enterprise is due to several factors:
1.The city finance department has been understaffed for a very long time. He said “One very key person (Assistant Finance Director Linda Brown) has been flat-out overworked.”
2. There have been a series of unfortunate outcomes among those who have been hired to provide help for the department, but that seems to have turned around. But only very recently.
3. Now that the city finance department is at least close to being fully staffed, it’s time to re-allocate job duties to give the assistant finance director some relief.
In fairness to recently departed Finance Director David Marshall, he repeatedly told the council that his department was seriously understaffed, coupled with a very complicated finance department software upgrade. The council eventually authorized additional help. Gazewood noted that a number of them didn’t work out but today things seem to be working much better.
But of course, that all took time. Many, many months. Marshall also suffered some very serious health issues during that time which kept him off the job for quite a while. Assistant City Finance Director Linda Brown got the brunt of the added workload while training new hires, requiring her to work nearly 7 days a week for months on end.
At the moment Newport does not have a permanent city manager, city attorney or city finance director. A tough position for any city to be in. Interviews for the three city manager finalists comes up next week with a meet and greet with the public and closed doors interviews with the city council. A new city attorney appears to be coming aboard in six weeks – Rob Connell who served for a time as the city attorney some years ago. Connell has been offered the job and he has accepted it. As for a permanent city finance director, that search has taken a little bit of a setback. Interim City Manager Ted Smith said the applications they received were very weak, and so they’re going to re-advertise the finance director position and widen their advertising reach.