Controller position on hold by Sunnyside Council

Monday, at the Sunnyside City Council workshop meeting, it was decided the council would reconsider creating the position of controller after a candidate for the position of assistant finance director has received a performance review.

Deputy City Manager Byron Olson and City Manager Mark Gervasi wanted to hire an individual who is highly qualified in financial oversight. The top candidate has management experience, works as senior finance manager for the city of Tacoma and wants to move closer to family.

Olson and Gervasi believe the qualifications of the candidate meet criteria for a city controller position, but Councilman Don Vlieger said he is opposed to the creation of a new position so close to the new year, when two new council members will take their seats.

"I prefer not to change the position, and if the individual works out we can revisit the issue," he said, stating he would bring the position up for review at the beginning of the new year if it was approved Monday.

Councilman Pablo Garcia said, "I believe the city manager and deputy city manager have made the case for (the creation of) the controller."

He and Councilwoman Theresa Hancock both noted the city has had numerous finance department problems that had to be remedied, including IRS fines.

As a result the duo believes the city needs to hire the most qualified person possible.

"It's time to quit micro-managing," said Hancock.

Garcia said he believes the higher salary for a controller is money well spent, if it keeps the city out of trouble where finances are concerned.

Deputy Mayor Nick Paulakis suggested that Gervasi explore the possibility of offering the assistant finance director position to the candidate. There would be a caveat of understanding expressed to the individual.

Paulakis said the job could be offered with the understanding that the council would revisit the idea of creating the controller position after a few months "...especially in light of Don's declaration that he'd be willing to let her go if he had the votes."

Garcia was offended and suggested the tact taken by Vlieger implied any serious decisions should not be made until the newly elected council members are in their seats.

Garcia and Tom Gehlen are both outgoing council members, and Garcia suggested they should leave the table if their votes were inconsequential.

"If you don't want my input now, I'll leave," said Garcia.

The discussion ensued and cooler heads prevailed before the council came to an agreement on the matter.

It was decided Gervasi would speak with the candidate about accepting the assistant finance director position, offering the job at the highest step of pay ($6,335 per month). Gervasi was directed to explain to the potential new employee her performance would be reviewed after three months, and the controller's position would be considered, if the candidate chose to accept the position offered.


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