Administrator will be expected to start quickly

Trumbull commissioners soon will decide on hiring one of two finalists for a newly created county administrator / purchasing director position that, no doubt, will be among the highest paid positions in county government — up to $96,000 per year, according to a pay range recommended by the county’s human resources director.

It comes as no surprise to us that among the finalists is Mike Matas, the Lake County budget director and Cortland resident who served on the volunteer Trumbull County Budget Review Committee that last year recommended the position’s creation.

The other finalist is Larry Collins, a fire chief in Ann Arbor, Mich. The two finalists were picked by a three-person committee appointed to narrow the field from the 13 original applicants.

Commissioners Dan Polivka and Mauro Cantalamessa have lobbied for the new position, saying it will save funds by coordinating purchasing and streamlining county operations. They have taken no issue with Matas’ consideration, despite his involvement with recommending the position’s creation. Commissioner Frank Fuda, however, has argued that the position is not needed. He also has opposed Matas’ candidacy for the job. It appears Fuda will not participate in the hiring process because of his opposition.

When Fuda previously objected publicly to Matas’ application, calling it “borderline unethical,” Matas called Fuda’s response “irresponsible” and accused Fuda of not embracing change.

We agree with Fuda and have consistently used this space to criticize the plan to add an administrator, especially considering that three commissioners elected to lead our county already hold full-time positions with each being paid in the neighborhood of $80,000 apiece. We also have argued that it was an inappropriate conflict of interest for Matas, who chaired the county budget review committee, to go on to apply and be considered for the appointment.

Among 19 money-saving recommendations made by the committee to commissioners last year was the addition of a purchasing director and a county administrator. Commissioners have failed to enact many of the biggest cost-saving suggestions, which included improved productivity and efficiencies in the areas of personnel, but they did agree to move forward with merging and creating a new purchasing-administrator position. Commissioners also voted to attend a lean Ohio boot camp and hired a company to conduct a county government energy audit and to review the bills — other recommendations made by the committee.

That leaves many of the committee’s goals still on the table.

Because so many of those recommendations still exist, we would expect the new administrator, once he’s selected and hired, to start his new role with a hefty “to do” list. And if commissioners, indeed, select Matas, we certainly expect him to hit the ground running on checking off these goals from that list since he was involved in its creation from the ground level.

If that were to occur and the new administrator were to prove with results that the effectiveness of the position would indeed pay his salary and create new savings for county taxpayers, then we will be the first to admit that we were wrong.

The public should expect to see effective results, and we will be watching.