WARREN - Warren City Council is fighting to eliminate the position of administrative coordinator now that longtime city employee Lisa Mazzochi has announced she will retire this spring.
City Councilwoman Helen Rucker last year began pushing for the elimination, or the consolidation, of the position in an effort to provide both cost savings and increased efficiency in the city. Mazzochi earns $36.89 per hour. She earned $79,027.57 in 2013.
Mazzochi has worked full time with the city since 1988. She held part-time positions in 1984.
Several council members expressing support for the change have said there is no need for the high-paying position during a tough economic period when most department heads already are doing the research needed for their purchases. In addition, it is being suggested that some of the duties now performed by Mazzochi can be split among people currently working in different departments, including finance and the mayor's office.
The administrative coordinator is in charge of overseeing purchasing for the city, including checking encumbrances, purchase orders, invoices and other associated jobs. It also maintains and updates the city-wide vendor list, meeting with various vendors that deal with the city.
The coordinator also reviews all bid specifications for various commodity purchases for city departments.
"Council has been looking at eliminating this position since the (Henry J.) Angelo administration," Rucker said. "This is not about the job that Lisa has done, but our belief the position is not needed."
Rucker said the work being done in that position could be consolidated into other departments.
"The job is not needed, at least, in the way it is performed today," Rucker said.
Law Director Greg Hicks said only the appointing authority may abolish the position and even then, it must do so according the Ohio Revised Code and under any pertinent union contractural language.
"The legislative body (council) is not an appointing authority," Hicks said. "Council can reduce the budget of the city hall budget, but it would be up to the mayor and safety service director to determine what positions, if any, they would need to lay off, or abolish, if applicable, due to lack of funds."
"If the city creates a real central purchasing office, then, perhaps, some form of the administrative coordinator may be maintained," Rucker said.
The councilwoman said she is hoping to talk to the mayor this week to discuss what he believes should be done with the position.
"I will take what I learn from the administration back to the council," Rucker said.
Franklin on Friday said it would be inappropriate to speak on the position, because the city is in contract negotiations with the management association that represents the administrative coordinator.
Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd ward, said with the city's population shrinking and the economy becoming tougher, the city will have to begin looking at downsizing and focusing its money on safety services and other critical city services.
"We need to look at different ways to reduce our costs, especially during a time we do not know what will be happening with our SAFER grant firefighters and other safety forces officers," Novak said. "We can look at consolidate some purchasing with the county and/or the school district.
"We do not buy all the same things, but some items - like road salt, office materials, vehicles and other equipment - can be done by one agency," Novak said.
Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-7th ward, says he ultimately would like the administration to look at all city positions to determine if there are more that could be consolidated and increase the city's efficiency while still providing necessary services.
"If we could look at all of the low-hanging fruit, then perhaps we can use the $400,000 to $500,000 a year savings to hire police officers, firefighters and operations department employees," Colbert said.
He would like the decision to eliminate the position to be completed before Mazzochi's retirement, so others will not apply for it.
Councilman John Brown, D-3rd ward, also agreed a review should be done on the need for the position.
"We are not trying to dictate city staffing," Brown said.
Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th ward, emphasizes the council's effort has nothing to do with Mazzochi, but the continuation of the position.
Councilman Dan Sferra, who hired Mazzochi for the administrative coordinator position when he was Warren's mayor, defended the continuation of the position, saying it is critical in providing cost analysis of projects and making sure the department get at least three bids for all purchases.
"I would recommend the council members concerned about eliminating the position to make sure they know what it does before eliminated because of what is perceived to be a high salary," Sferra said.
D.J. Sferra, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2501 and the son of the former mayor, says the management union has not been formally contacted by anyone about council's effort to eliminate or consolidate the position.
"The city would have to go through SERB," D.J. Sferra said. "Our (the union's) position is vital to the city. It provides the checks and balances between what the department head may want to purchase and the best available price."
D.J. Sferra said the possible elimination of the position should not be arbitrarily made.
"We believe maintaining the position significantly saves the city more money than eliminating it," he said. "She handles the various telephone and radio contracts for the city."