The City of Dade City has been scrambling to fill a key vacancy in its finance department — during a critical juncture where many budgetary details need to be ironed out for fiscal year 2020-2021.
To handle that chore, the municipality is turning to a financial consultant who’ll provide mostly remote services.
The finance department has been operating without a full-time finance officer. Its assistant finance officer resigned in June.
Dade City commissioners on July 14 unanimously approved an agreement with Andrew Laflin, CPA, to provide finance and budget services to the city, for an amount of $6,500 per month. The agreement is effective through Sept. 30, 2021; either party has the ability to terminate the agreement with 30 days’ notice.
Laflin is expected to work from City Hall one or two days a week, and then be accessible remotely and virtually other days of the week.
He provides similar consulting services to the City of Madeira Beach and assists the Pinellas County Clerk’s finance division.
Laflin brings 17 years of public accounting experience, mainly leading an outsourcing, consulting and advisory practice devoted to serving Florida local governments, including counties, cities, transportation authorities and other special districts.
Laflin’s resume shows that he has provided consulting services to more than two dozen governmental agencies. He also serves as an adjunct professor in the fields of financial and cost accounting at the University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College.
“I just look forward to the opportunity to serve this city and handle all the duties and responsibilities of this position, and I’m capable and eager to do so,” Laflin told the commission, during its virtual meeting.
Commissioners acknowledged the consulting arrangement — opposed to having a finance officer in-house — is far from ideal. But, they said there’s little other option at this point to get an initial budget drafted by Aug. 1.
The city originally anticipated elevating or placing additional responsibility to assistant finance officer Venus Irvine, but she resigned from her position June 24, leaving another gap in the finance department in a time where several budget workshops need to be planned, organized and executed.
“We’re really stuck in a vulnerable position,” said Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez. “We have a lot of work to get this budget done by Aug. 1, so there’s a huge void to be filled. I don’t think this is the best scenario, but it is a void that can be filled with a very capable person at this time.”
Commissioner Scott Black concurred: “We have to move ahead. We don’t have any choice in it. We may get into this (consulting arrangement) and realize this is a great option for us even to continue, so let’s go into it, see what we think. We have to do it now, so we need to proceed and we can cross all those bridges as we go along.”
The city has been unable to find a full-time finance officer since Leslie Porter was promoted from that role to city manager in February 2019. Since then, Porter’s been juggling both roles, something commissioners “never, never, never intended to be the case,” Hernandez emphasized.
“I am not happy with where we’re at a year-and-a-half later almost and having one individual assume both positions,” Hernandez said.
“The city manager has many things that we need to get done, especially in this time of all these other activities and plans and things that are happening in our city, so having that same person assuming all of those things is really not in the city’s best interest,” she added.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Shive agreed, adding, “This situation with trying to get a finance director on board has taken a long time and I think we need to get this position filled as soon as we can.”
Aside from the ongoing search for a permanent finance officer, the mayor also expressed displeasure with the amount of job turnover throughout City Hall, particularly with some leading departmental roles.
Hernandez observed: “We’ve had some major positions that have been vacant or get filled and then they’re empty again, and that is not helping us at all, especially during a very busy time in Dade City’s history and all we’re trying to accomplish.
“I don’t know what we need to do, and I know the pool is limited, but we’ve got to figure this out,” Hernandez said.
July 22, 2020