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Ontario Town Board addresses issue of hiring a Business Manager at contentious meeting

by WayneTimes.com
March 9, 2024

After several false starts, changes in the position description, and the opinions on how it all should be handled...the decision to hire a Business Manager for the Town is not yet settled.

A position in place from September of 2010 to October of 2018, when Paul Liess was hired as full time Town of Ontario Business Manager. His municipal financial job involved overseeing accounting, finances, insurances, audits, debt services and more. 

When Liess left in 2018, purportedly over the atmosphere of Town politics in the office, the Town hired a person with a good accounting background, who did not seem to completely understand the position or municipal finances. After some reevaluating and auditing of the books, which were not in the best shape at that point, the Town Board agreed to hire an outside firm  to take over the Financial management of the Town.

The outside firm, EFPR Solutions,  (now known as Local Government Support Services LLC), was hired back in December of 2020. With all the problems the town was seeing internally keeping the books in order, outsourcing was unanimously approved. 

The Town Board has, for the last several years, been searching again for an in-house business manager. 

“This just takes it back to the way it was, and should be,” said Councilman Joe Catalano. The outside firm we hired is fine for accounting and auditing, and we have Paychex for payroll and reporting, but these businesses are not able to touch the Town’s money and investments. That would be the reason for a Business Manager to do all that accounting work, plus our capital investments and follow through on grants,” explained Catalano.

The posting for a Business Manager has been on the Town’s website for a couple of years, reading: “The position is full time, reporting to the Town Supervisor with an annual salary of $80 to $100 K based on experience. Health care and other benefits are included.  Apply at Town Hall, Town Clerk’s Office. Please note; the position requires the Civil Service title of Accountant or a willingness to apply for that title.”

The description has since been  changed to “reporting to the Town Board", instead of Town Supervisor and the position was not listed as full time. 

According to the Town, Councilman Mark D’Angelo has taken up that research and the position has remained an open posting. There is a great deal of opposing opinion on why the description of the position was changed recently to include that the Town Business Manager should answer to the Town Board - rather that answer to the Town Supervisor, who is also a member of the board.  

At a recent regular Town Board meeting, (February 26), a board member asked for the hiring of a Business Manager to be added to the  printed agenda. The discussion was heated, as to why this was not on the original agenda, and the agenda was not made available 24 hours before the meeting. Due to that discussion, the Board tabled the discussion and possible appointment to a meeting to be held on Wednesday, February 28. The person applying for the job was Paul Liess, former Business Manager.  

The special Wednesday meeting was held as noted in Monday’s meeting minutes, to bring up the hiring again. Major discussion from members of the public to the board was heated and very vocal. “It was by far and above an absolutely unprofessional, uncontrolled and slanderous meeting” stated Town Council member Kathleen Leszyk.

Most attendees commented that the hiring of a part-time (working evenings and weekends from home) Business Manager for the amount of money indicated  ($100,000) was ludicrous,  and suggested that the job description had been changed to accommodate the applicant. 

The Town currently pays the outside firms (EFPR/Local Government Support Services, and Paychex) nearly $118,000. That amount, already more than the $100,000 requested for the applicant, did not include investments, grants and overseeing of the town assets. Tim Strickland, Deputy Supervisor, explained that the Association of Towns was supportive of outside accounting firms, since it also did not cost the town payroll benefits for a town employee. Following the lengthy meeting, the hiring of a Business Manager was tabled again. 

New Supervisor Ben Aman, who is somewhat unfamiliar with the past actions of the board on this issue, stated that: “Hiring a part-time, nights and weekends business manager for $100,000 a year is not in the best interest of the Town of Ontario. It’s not doing right by our current employees nor is it what the residents of Ontario voted me in to do. My job is to serve this community and to represent their voice.”

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