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City in no rush to fill position

YOUNGSTOWN — The city has been without a permanent finance director since Jamael Tito Brown took over as mayor Jan. 1, 2018 — and it doesn’t look like one will be selected for a while.

Brown has talked about not rushing the process during his 20-plus months as mayor. But it’s been 10 months since an initial interview of four candidates, and the city is no further along in selecting a finance director since that time.

Brown said he wants to wait for Michael Abouserhal, the city’s financial consultant, to finish an assessment of Youngstown’s water and wastewater funds before “moving

forward on a finance director.

I like to have things in order, and that’s the priority now.”

Abouserhal’s contract, for up to $25,000, can run through the end of the year. He had a previous $25,000 contract, which expired June 30, to do an evaluation of the city’s general fund and made numerous recommendations to improve its bottom line.

“I want (Abouserhal) to finish his assessment, and then we’ll move forward on a finance director,” Brown said.

Four candidates were interviewed for the job in November 2018. Brown has said a number of times since then that he was planning a second round of interviews. To date, that hasn’t happened.

“We haven’t reached out to the four of them,” Brown said. “We hope they’re still interested. If not, we’ll continue the search when the time comes.”

The four applicants are:

l Kyle Miasek, the interim finance director since January 2018 and deputy finance director since 2006. Miasek was the point man on balancing the city’s 2018 and 2019 budgets, including the general fund, which started with deficits both years.

l Mahoning County Treasurer Daniel R. Yemma, who’s held that post since 2011. Before Brown was mayor, he worked under Yemma as the treasurer’s director of operations. If Yemma is chosen, he would have to resign as county treasurer, with the Mahoning County Democratic Party choosing his replacement for the remainder of his term. Yemma is up for re-election in November 2020.

l Peter M. Rancatore Jr., a former city of Toledo finance director.

l Henry A. Staven, who’s held several public-sector positions in nine states. He quit in July 2017 as city administrator in Auburn, Mich., after complaints were filed against him for making an inappropriate comment to a female worker. He was also fired in January 2013 as city manager of Lakeside, Ore., after he contended he was working in a hostile work environment.

The city is saving about $125,000 annually in salary and benefits with Miasek handling the duties of both the finance director and the deputy finance director while keeping the latter position vacant. But Brown said he wants to have a finance director and a deputy.

The finance director position pays $83,949 annually.

“We’re going to fill the position,” Brown said. “I’m not sure when we’ll pursue it further. We may find out we’re in better (financial) shape or maybe worse, and that will impact who is chosen.”

Longtime Finance Director David Bozanich resigned in December 2017 after Brown made it clear during that year’s mayoral campaign that he had no intention of retaining him.

Bozanich was indicted Aug. 30, 2018, on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated theft, bribery and obstructing justice. He is accused of assisting people to obtain city funding for economic-development projects in exchange for money, golf fees, meals and trips. He’s pleaded not guilty.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com