Sarasota city commissioners voted 3-2 at their Monday, Sept. 19, regular meeting to approve a new city organizational chart that transfers the IT department from City Manager Bob Bartolotta’s office to the office of City Clerk and Auditor Pamela Nadalini.
The concept was proposed last month by Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, who believes the auspices of the IT Department can be handled more efficiently through the clerk’s office, which is in charge of all city information requests.
Caragiulo and Commissioners Willie Shaw and Shannon Snyder voted for the change. Mayor Suzanne Atwell and Vice Mayor Terry Turner voted against it.
“I have to take this action as proposed as a vote of no confidence,” Bartolotta said. “I believe I’m the CEO and responsible for administrative actions, and I take those responsibilities very seriously.”
Bartolotta questioned why the move was being made. He said that he hasn’t been made aware of any issues with the IT Department and the way it’s currently handled.
“We don’t have a broken system, and I don’t understand the reasoning behind taking one of the departments out from under me,” Bartolotta said. “You are going to shackle this department and create new conflicts.”
Caragiulo, however, said there was no motive behind the proposal he presented originally in an Aug. 8 memo.
“There is no conspiracy,” Caragiulo said. “This is just about a better process with more transparency.”
In the memo, Caragiulo explained that budget workshops revealed that Nadalini had to ask individual departments to provide requested records when needed.
“It is very difficult to understand how the city auditor and clerk can perform her record-keeping oversight when the department that effectively controls the records in this digital age reports to the city manager,” Caragiulo wrote in his memo.
As the discussion ensued, it was apparent commissioners believe there are other issues between Bartolotta and Nadalini that need to be resolved.
The discussion was most likely brought out by Atwell’s opening meeting remarks. She stressed that department heads and employees need to get past an issue brought to light earlier this month when Bartolotta announced that an audit revealed a former city employee was double-billing the city and the state through a Newtown youth program.
The audit stated that the city “did not require or request information on how the (youth program’s) matching funds were utilized.”
“In light of the recent allegation toward the city auditor and clerk’s office and others ... the city manager and clerk desperately need to do lunch and work out a realignment,” Atwell said. “All of us need to get our act together and build collaboration and civility in out city.”
“We have a conflict issue and an organizational-chart issue,” Snyder said. “We have two skilled people here who should be able to sit down and work things out.”
In the meantime, Shaw, who has a labor-relations background, agreed to act as a facilitator between the two department heads to try and find common ground.
Former employee email raises more concerns
Concerns raised by the Sarasota City Commission Monday, Sept. 19, regarding the civility and management of city employees were further solidified by an email sent to commissioners Sept. 16 by the former senior internal auditor.
Maryellen McGrath, who resigned from the Auditor and Clerk position after only four weeks, wrote an email to commissioners Friday explaining the position she formerly held should be cut “and the salary put towards a more productive, ethical and necessary department.”
McGrath questioned the way the audit regarding the Newtown youth program double-billing scandal was performed and released, claimed her audit manager spends her days searching town emails and doesn’t believe the department is following proper procedures.
“The Auditor and Clerk’s Office is a liability rather than an asset to the city of Sarasota, conducting audits in a combative nature with the auditees rather than working with them,” McGrath said. “The approach of the audit department does not provide or suggest recommendations for improvements to the city’s processes and procedures to save the taxpayers money or provide employees with guidance on an efficient process to alleviate their workload.”