Pelham council torn on future of city clerk position

PELHAM – A resolution for consideration to appoint a city clerk was tabled by the Pelham City Council after much debate about the topic at work session on Monday, Aug. 7.

The council engaged in a lengthy discussion about the city clerk position after City Council President Rick Hayes recommended that Finance Director Tom Seale be appointed to the position.

Hayes said he is in favor of combining the finance director and the city clerk position.

Hayes said some aspects of the city manager’s job include some of the duties currently performed by the city clerk, however, the city manager will not be the city clerk. With the city clerk having fewer responsibilities, Hayes said he is in favor of combining the finance director and the city clerk positions like it once was.

Prior to current City Clerk Marsha Yates being appointed to the position in 2013, the city clerk and finance director positions were combined.

Councilman Maurice Mercer said the council’s work session minutes show that the council agreed to hold off on appointing a city clerk until a city manager was hired so that person could be a part of the process. From his understanding, Mercer said that was the reason the vote was tabled to begin with.

Mercer said he also doesn’t agree with removing a person from a position that they’re fully qualified for. He said he hasn’t heard of any grievances about Yates’ performance as city clerk.

Councilwoman Mildred Lanier said she still stands by her decision to wait until the city manager begins work to move forward with appointing a city clerk. Gretchen DiFante was recently hired as the city manager. She is set to start the job on Aug. 21.

“The city manager should be in place and be a part of the process,” Lanier said. “I stand by that.”

Lanier said it’s still important to have DiFante’s input. Councilwoman Beth McMillan added that it’s also important for the council to keep in mind using the city clerk’s salary to put toward the city manager’s salary was also discussed although the decision was never approved as a part of the city’s budget. Mayor Gary Water’s salary was also cut to provide funding for the city manager’s salary.

Lanier said she’s unfamiliar with discussions surrounding the funding source for the city manager’s salary because she was not a member of the council at that time. She said its important for her to always make an informed vote and to make sure that she and city employees have a clear understanding of what aspects of the city clerk’s role would be assumed by the city manager and what duties would still fall under the city manager.

“We’re not in such a rush that we can’t decide what those roles will be,” Lanier said.

Hayes agreed with Lanier saying that making sure roles are clearly defined is important, but he said that’s something that has already been done. Hayes said the role and responsibilities of the city manager are clearly defined in the job description approved by the Personnel Board and the council earlier this year.

Near the end of the discussion, Waters asked the council to “please be unified” on the decision.

“We’re right on the cusp of a new city manager coming in and it’s so important to be unified on this decision,” Waters said.

However, Hayes said it is clear that the council is not unified on this particular matter, but a decision still needs to be made at some point.

In other business, the council:

-Approved a resolution to accept a $3,401 bid from Complete Janitorial Service, Inc. for janitorial services at Pelham City Hall, Pelham Water Works and Pelham Police and Court buildings.