Thursday, January 06, 2000

Treasurer: Job cut will hurt Norwood




BY WALT SCHAEFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORWOOD — City council's 5-3 decision last month to eliminate Deputy City Treasurer Mike Tolbert's job, as recommended by Mayor Joe Hochbein, has sparked a City Hall debate.

        While the Republican mayor said the recommendation was a move to trim a city staff “top-heavy in administrative functions,” Treasurer Tim Molony, a Democrat, insists that the job is vital to his office.

        “The deputy treasurer is, in effect, the office manager with responsibilities to sign and approve checks, oversee the city's banking ...,” Mr. Molony said. “Mike monitors the city investments ... and oversees other office duties — water bill payments, building and yard sale permits. He is involved in health and liability insurance issues ... and the health-care plan for retirees.

        “This will affect the citizens. We are going to have to go back to the way we operated for the few months prior to Mike being hired. Some things — issuing checks, for example — may have to wait two or three days.”

        Council approved creation of the $27,500 position in 1998, and Mr. Tolbert began work that September. Some elected officials — treasurer and auditor — are not full-time city positions and rely on full-time personnel to conduct day-to-day business. Without Mr. Tolbert, there will be two clerks in the office as well as City Earnings Tax Commissioner John Hanrahan, with two other clerks reporting to him.

        The deputy treasurer's job was approved after the former treasurer, the late Mary Lee Beckstedt, did not seek re-election in 1997. Ms. Beckstedt had no other work com mitments and preferred to work full time. Mr. Molony, 40, is controller of a Newport metal-recycling firm and cannot be in City Hall full time. Ms. Beckstedt recommended that Mr. Tolbert's job be created, officials said.

        Republican City Law Director Vicki Garry questioned eliminating the job. “While it is legal to do this, I wonder if it is the right thing to do. However, this office will not delay the issue,” Mrs. Garry said. “This will hurt service to the public. The work will not be done as efficiently or as quickly ... and, it is my understanding (the treasurer's office) is working to capacity as it is.”

        Mr. Hochbein said he does not view the deputy treasurer's job as critical, and noted that Mr. Hanrahan had urged a combination of his and a deputy auditor's position several years ago.

        The mayor said that while Mr. Molony has authority on how to structure his office, increasing Mr. Hanrahan's responsibilities or assigning more responsibility to a full-time clerk would appear appropriate.

        Mr. Hochbein also noted that he has eliminated a deputy clerk of courts position, and the number of public-works su pervisors has been cut from five to two.

        Mr. Hanrahan, a Republican, said his idea to merge the two positions occurred ""four or five years ago” when the city was recovering from the loss of a General Motors assembly plant — its former major employer. The treasurer's office has become a much busier place, he said.

        “During the first eight months of Tim Molony's term, he did not have a deputy, and I was doing both jobs, and that was a problem,” Mr. Hanrahan said. “I suppose if you had enough subordinate people you could do it.”

        Mr. Tolbert, 47, has begin begun to search for new employment.

       



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- Treasurer: Job cut will hurt Norwood
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