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Offer made to candidate for deputy controller job

Saturday, February 16, 2013 - Updated: 5:10 PM

By REBECCA WEBSTER

Recorder News Staff

An offer is on the table for a deputy Amsterdam city controller.

Mayor Ann Thane said Friday that officials made an offer to one of the two final candidates in the application process -- that brought in more than 30 applications -- and now it's just a waiting game to make sure everything goes through.

If all goes well, Thane said the person could be in the position in as little as a week-and-a-half.

"The sooner he gets in the better," she said.

At the helm in the office right now is principal account clerk and acting deputy controller Joy Chiarello.

"Joy has to handle an awful lot of stress," Thane said. "For someone who has really risen to the challenge, it has not been easy."

On Friday, Chiarello's desk on the third floor of City Hall was piled with priority tasks and projects.

"I think it will be helpful," Chiarello said. "We've kind of been without that extra person, that key person. As far as the entire rest of the department, everyone is doing exactly what they've been doing. They've taken on things here and there. Because I'm higher up on the scale, I would say that mostly the work has fallen on me."

Chiarello said that her duties as principal account clerk have fallen even more behind than she was before when the city had a controller in place.

The extra help in the office couldn't come at a more important time, Thane said, as the city is beginning their budget process.

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis has been taking on a good deal of the work, Thane said, working with department heads to get their information and tweaking numbers.

"We expect to have the preliminary budget as of March 1," she said, adding that as things looks now, that goal is reasonably attainable.

"This is added work for the corporation counsel for sure," she said. "This is not in his prescribed duties."

And back on board this coming week will be controller's office consultant Darryl Purinton.

Thane said that the first thing will need to be the single audit and working on how the city will handle it.

As for the audit by New York state, Thane said haven't gotten an exact date.

But even with a person coming in, Chiarello said it's still going to take some time to get the person up to speed on the city finances and what the priorities are.

"We have some extra things now with the health insurance and with the trust," she said. "It's definitely going to be helpful, it's still going to be tough for a short time until they're able to jump in and take over basically."

And she has many questions as to who will handle what tasks.

Even when the time comes that a controller is once again brought in, she's having a hard time thinking through what tasks will go to what position.

"Now that they're actually putting a full person that they're calling a deputy in there, I'm not sure how that's going to work and that's a question that I haven't asked yet," she said. "But until I guess it's finalized that yes we've hired this person and everything's good and they're going to start working, that's when I would ask the questions of how this is going to work because it's so new that I don't anybody has the answer yet."

DeCusatis said Friday that once a deputy controller comes in they will then have discussions about what responsibilities go to who and who steps up as the person signing the paperwork.

"The trouble with this whole situation is that it doesn't actually fit any of the definitions of the charter," DeCusatis said. "It's difficult to say exactly what is required."

DeCusatis said the conversations have not yet begun about what will happen once the person comes in, but those will happen once they start.

"Obviously, day one on the job I'm not sure you get full signature authority over all the accounts without some learning time and settling in, so I'm not too clear on how that's going to work," he said.

As for the controller position, which still remains vacant, Thane said she hopes certain members of the council see the importance and put someone in as interim.

"Is it fair to leave that department without a controller?" Thane posed. "I don't believe that it is. It's critical that we have someone."

She said it's a problem that "everyone is choosing to ignore."

Discussions about moving the position from elected to appointed fill the special meeting on Tuesday, one that Thane said went well.

"I think we will be well served to have an appointed controller rather than an elected one," she said. "It's so complex that you really must have someone with financial acumen."

She said that she feels an increase in salary, if it was appointed, would attract more qualified candidates.

     

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