Florida Keys News
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Shake-up in city's finance services

MARATHON -- Marathon Finance Director Peter Rosasco last week agreed to step aside and allow his firm's deputy to take over while the City Council considers shifting from contracted to in-house financial services.

The move was prompted after Councilman Mark Senmartin proposed bringing the city's financial services in-house for a potential savings of $250,000 a year at the April 18 council meeting. Senmartin said the city could hire a full-time certified public accountant and junior accountant for well under the almost $385,000 it will pay this fiscal year to Bishop Rosasco Co., which has performed finance responsibilities for the city since 2003.

Rosasco, however, said controlling public funds is much different than running a small business, such as a pawn shop, which is what Senmartin owns.

But muddying the waters has been Rosasco's dual role as a contractor/developer for projects coming before the council for approval, and Senmartin said bringing finances in-house would remove any potential conflict of interest and close off Rosasco's access to possible "inside information."

Citing transparency of finance operations and fiscal savings, Senmartin asked his fellow council members for support in having staff bring back for consideration a cost analysis of in-house financial services.

John Grasley, president of the Florida Keys Contractors Association, agreed with Senmartin during public comment on the item. He expressed concern about Rosasco's potential advantage in construction projects and the possible annual savings of $250,000 as "reason enough" to change finance operations.

Karen Farley Wilkinson, former chair of the Marathon charter review committee, disagreed, however.

"We've won all kinds of financial awards" with Rosasco's firm at the helm of Marathon finances, she said. "We're almost the best in the state."

Wilkinson said she liked the idea of city finances being separate from day-to-day operations and thought Marathon was doing fine as is, adding that Rosasco knows the residents and the city.

Rosasco said city finances cannot be run by two people, urging a realistic analysis if that was council's desire. Meanwhile, he suggested Linda Johnson, who has served as his deputy since 2008 and is knowledgeable about the city's finances, assume his role as city finance director.

The council unanimously directed staff to conduct an analysis of contracted versus in-house financial services. This topic is set to be discussed at the May 13 council meeting.

Whether Interim Manager Mike Puto should be considered for the manager position was briefly discussed.

Councilman John Bartus said Puto is doing a great job and that he has been told by residents that obtaining a building permit is a more pleasurable experience than before.

Senmartin said due to summer vacations and the coming budget season that the council would be better off pushing any decision about the manager to the end of the year. However, Vice Mayor Chris Bull said he is not fond of "kicking it down the road" and Councilman Richard Keating agreed, saying, "I think Puto has done a great job but we need to get the ads out and start interviewing."

Mayor Dick Ramsay suggested giving Puto a contract through the November election. Ramsay said he would be termed out at that point, implying the next council should have a role in the decision.

Dog park enthusiasts shared their thoughts on where and how a canine park should be implemented. Some wanted it fenced off; others wanted a designated open area for dogs to roam. Some wanted one in Ocean Park, others City Park. Bull said he has seen a putting green as well as a dog park in park architectural drawings but a final plan needs to be determined. The Park and Recreation Committee is set to discuss the matter at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 8, at the Marathon Fire Station meeting room. The public is invited.

The code enforcement team led by building and code administrator Stacy Charlton and a recipient of a Military Order of the Purple Heart were recognized at the council meeting. Charlton announced during Code Enforcement Officers' Appreciation Month that residents stand to benefit as an additional code inspector and plans examiner have been hired, which should enhance the building and code compliance processes.

Recognition of 70-year-old Raymond Charles Wagner as a Purple Heart recipient opened the council meeting. Wagner said he was born Jan. 8, 1944, in Cleveland, Ohio and dropped out of Kent State University because he knew he was going to be drafted.

Wagner joined the Marine Corps, and on Sept. 2, 1968, he was wounded in combat in Vietnam. He received shrapnel in his head and was shot in the leg. Several in his platoon suffered worse casualties, he said.

He said he was proud to be at the meeting receiving the plaque and asked that all remember those who serve in the armed forces.

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