Guarantees needed with new position

Commissioners should think hard about whether creating the new Trumbull County administrator position is the best way to go in their attempt to “save money.”

As Commissioner Frank Fuda has pointed out, the added salary and benefits for this position could be counterproductive to the commissioners’ goals of balancing the budget and finding funds for 2018 and 2019 county operations.

Fuda also has noted that in addition to the three elected commissioners — who are paid annually about $80,000 each — the county already has three other employees handling its administrative duties.

They are Trumbull commissioners clerk Paulette Godfrey, who previously served as interim county administrator; Jim Misocky, a former assistant prosecutor who now serves as projects manager; and Richard Jackson, the county’s human resources director.

Commissioner Dan Polivka, however, disagreed with that assessment, saying none of those three employees are considered administrators.

Polivka may be correct in noting that these employees’ titles do not designate them as county administrators, but certainly each adequately fulfills important administrative functions. We see the addition of a Trumbull County administrator as just another layer in an already-too-bureaucratic government.

While we were glad to see Jackson remove his name from consideration for the county administrator position — an upstanding move after Jackson wrote the job description and collected the resumes — we still remain seriously concerned about the application of Mike Matas for the job.

As we have said before in this space, Matas served on the volunteer Trumbull County Citizens Budget Review Committee that recommended commissioners create the position. Matas, of Cortland, is budget director for Lake County.

The committee made 19 recommendations that would increase the efficiencies and save money in county government. Many of those points focused on personnel costs.

The group called for the creation of a county purchasing director that, the committee stated, would improve efficiencies in purchasing, and the members recommended hiring a county administrator — a CEO of sorts — that also might help the county operate more efficiently.

After about six months, none of these recommendations had been acted upon.

When questioned about the delay, commissioners decided recently to merge the suggested purchasing and administrator positions into one and began advertising for applicants.

It is only fair to note they also have since voted to attend a lean Ohio boot camp, hired a company to conduct a county government energy audit and to review the bills — other recommendations made by the committee.

Steve Stoyak, another member of the Trumbull County Budget Review Committee who had been vocal when the committee’s other cost-saving recommendations were not quickly acted upon, last week wrote a letter to Trumbull County commissioners supporting Matas’ application.

Commissioners now have created another panel, this time including three local people, to whittle down the resumes to the top three candidates from which commissioners are expected to hire.

The panel will consist of Darlene St. George, Howland Township administrator; Dennis Blank, a Warren resident who is working with the Warren mayor and private business leaders on an economic development effort; and James Dignan, the newly appointed head of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber.

We suspect the three — invited to participate by Polivka and without any official vote from the full board of commissioners — comes in an attempt to protect the process from politics and favoritism.

While we wonder whether official action should have been taken in appointing this panel, we still hope the members develop an objective rubric to guarantee their unbiased analysis of each candidate.

It also is worth noting that we suspect that Howland residents, who pay St. George’s public salary, would frown upon their township administrator taking time away from her township duties to work on this Trumbull County project, and as such, would expect this work to be done as a volunteer effort on her own time.

Fuda maintains he will continue to oppose the creation of the position and any hiring.

Until we see a guarantee from commissioners that this position will provide enough verifiable cost savings through purchasing or other new efficiencies to cover the new salary and benefits, we will not support the measure either.