PA interim finance director hired
Published 8:25 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2015
With a Sept. 30 deadline looming to have a new fiscal year budget in place, Port Arthur City Council voted Tuesday to hire an interim finance director, but with a shorter contract than City Manager Bryan McDougal had recommended.
And, not before there was considerable discussion about the salary and residence of the person selected for the job.
Jerry W. Dale, a former finance director from the city of McAllen who is now retired and living in Houston, will be paid an annual salary of $148,571 if his services are needed beyond six months.
In that case, McDougal will have to go back to Council to get an extension beyond the initial six month period in the contract approved Tuesday.
Port Arthur resident James Gamble spoke at the meeting to question why a Port Arthur resident could not be found to fill the temporary position left vacant when Deborah Echols abruptly resigned her position a week ago with no notice.
Gamble also stated concerns that the cost of hiring Dale was too high.
McDougal said about 25 percent of Dale’s salary would go to the recruiting company Strategic Government Resources for services such as performing a background check and finding a qualified applicant on short notice.
“They found him, interviewed him and got him to us,” McDougal said. “We are at a point now where we have to have someone quick because the budget is due in two months.”
Quite frankly, McDougal said, the city is in a time crunch.
As part of the amended contract approved by Council, the city manager was directed to immediately start searching for a permanent finance director.
The contract with SGR states that in addition to the annual salary and benefits totaling of $148,571, Dale will be paid an additional $73.43 per hour for any hours exceeding a 40-hour week. Dale is expected to not work more than a 40-hour week unless he has the city’s approval.
The city is also obligated to provide hotel accommodations during the work week and a weekly mileage reimbursement for the 227 miles from Dale’s home in Houston to Port Arthur.
City Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince said because the city encourages local industry with in lieu of tax payments to hire locally, it was important to hire someone if not from Port Arthur, at least from the county.
“I have a very serious problem with this and it just gets to the core. As big a company as (SGR) is, why could they not find someone local,” Prince said. “I don’t mind two to three months to get the budget in, but for this to last six months to a year, something is wrong with that picture. But, I do understand we need some help.”
McDougal said finding a qualified person specialized in municipal government financing was a challenge.
SGR identified three candidates for the interim job: Two from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and Dale, from Houston.
When a full-time finance director is hired, McDougal said he anticipated the city having to offer more than the $97,798 annual salary Echols was making.
District 5 Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis said he supported the city manager’s recommendation since the city was in the middle of the budget process.
“We have to get someone in here that can hit the floor running to get the budget ready by October,” Lewis said.
District 4 Councilman Stephen A. Mosely said it was imperative the city get out of the financial hole it was in last year when $9 million from reserves had to be used to balance the budget.
“I think we are pinching pennies here. The problem is the city manager is trying to get us out of this financial hole and we are complaining about room rent and mileage. Simply put, the city manager is doing what needs to be done.”
District 1 Councilman Raymond Scott Jr., agreed.
“We need to get the budget done and get it done now and trust who (the city manager) wants to put in place to help,” Scott said.