Mayor Stodola demands new staff positions at City Hall | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mayor Stodola demands new staff positions at City Hall

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 10:54 AM

'I REALLY WANT AND NEED THIS TO HAPPEN:' Mahyor Mark Stodola.
  • 'I REALLY WANT AND NEED THIS TO HAPPEN:' Mahyor Mark Stodola.
Mayor Mark Stodola has been advertising for two new staff positions — a chief of staff who'd be paid $60,000 to $90,000 and an assistant to the mayor who'd be paid $44,000 to $68,000.

The creation of the jobs came after some internal disagreement on titles and Stodola's insistence to City Manager Bruce Moore that the jobs be created according to his specifications.

The mayor currently has an administrative assistant who, as of March, was paid $45,600. Others on the city staff respond to the mayor's needs as necessary.

According to job descriptions, the chief of staff will coordinate the day-to-day operations of the mayor's office, perform research and analysis on a wide range of community and constituent issues, and "provide professional support in coordination and implementation of special programs and initiatives for the mayor's short and long range goals and objectives."

The assistant will provide "administrative, technical and professional support" to include research and data analysis and serve as a liaison to the Mayor's Youth Council This person must have a commercial driver's license.

The chief of staff position was advertised internally — only to the city manger's staff, not the entire city workforce — for three days and there was one applicant, whose name has been sent to the mayor. I am supposed to be provided it under the Freedom of Information Act eventually. The assistant job was advertised and the response period has not closed. UPDATE: The sole applicant is Phyllis Dickerson, a special events coordinator in the city manager's office, who currently makes about $47,000 a year. If chosen, she's apparently in for a whopping pay raise.

In terms of added employment, only the chief of staff will increase allotted positions numerically. Stacey Witherell, the city human resources director, said there was a vacant "management analyst" positon that will be converted to the assistant to the mayor position. City manager Bruce Moore, has power under the city's blended manager/mayor system to create a new job without City Board approval, subject to budgetary considerations.


There was internal tension about the creation of the two jobs, based on documents I received under Freedom of Information Act requests. After City Manager Moore forwarded to human resources the mayor's request for new positions, Witherell wrote back saying the job title chief of staff didn't fit with the city's organizational structure.

Her memorandum said a chief of staff title is typically assigned to someone in charge of day to day operations of municipalities. "In our curren structure, the city manager has the operational authority and directs all operations." She suggested some alternate job titles. She also commented:

"At this point, any salary considerations based on experience, talent and education would be premature in nature as any salary offers must be based on maintaining salary equity within the city manager's office; therefore, the level of compensation proposed for an incumbent selected to fill these positions is beyond the scope of this review."


This news didn't sit well with Stodola, who sent a note back to Bruce Moore. He said none of the alternate titles was acceptable. He said he wanted the job identified as he'd requested and at a pay grade comparable to the communications officer or chief services officer position, or made a "999" unclassified position "if that is easier." The job was advertised as chief of staff at grade 999.

Stodola wrote to Moore:

My very quick and brief research reveals that a mayor's chief of staff in a city manager form of government is common where the mayor's executive authority has been increased and isusually distinguished from running the day to day operations of municipalities, which is your job as the chief administrative officer of the city. The position of mayor's chief of staff in manager/council forms of government exists in several cities, for example; Mesa, AZ; Fresno, CA; Tulsa OK; Oklahoma City OK; Austin TX; Hartford CT to name a few.

.....

Bruce we have always worked pretty well together the past 8+ years and while you might prefer something diferent, I really want and need this to happen and would like it to happen with your cooperation. Ordinance 19,761 identifies the mayor as the chief executive officer of the city and it also increases the executive authority of the mayor including a directive that all powers and duties of the city manager shall be performed at the direction of the mayor.



Stodola was elected to a third four-year term in 2014. A change in government gave the mayor's office veto and appointment power and enabled a big pay raise, to $160,000 a year. But the rule of six — a six-vote majority on the City Board — remains the strongest force in city government. Talk continues in widely divergent political circles about the need for a change in government in Little Rock to a city council form. A variety of politicians might have an interest in challenging Stodola in such a happenstance, if not before.

Stodola is out of town and didn't respond to e-mails for comment. Moore was said to be in meetings all day.

UPDATE: I did receive an e-mail from Stodola, who said he had a "full plate" and needed the assistance. His full response:

By way of explanation the city manager's office has had the secretary/scheduler reporting to the City Clerk and the project manager reporting to the ass't city manager. This has proven to be very unworkable with little accountability. The ass't city manager and the city clerk have more than enough on their plates already.Additionally I often have interns from the Clinton School, Philander Smith, and UALR working in the office that also need supervision. I believe Bruce agrees.

Over the course of being mayor I have on occasion used the services of one of the 3 special projects staff in the city manager's office. I have observed over time that in my opinion at least in part they are not fully utilized. Hence I have suggested that rather than add staff, one of the positions should be used to fill the Mayor's chief of staff position to continue to do special projects for both the mayor and the city manager as the job description so provides, and to provide direct supervision to the staff positions assigned to me. This can be done with a very little increase in money. I believe this will improve follow through on a variety of matters and direct accountability. As for a position called the Mayor's chief of staff, it is common in many city manager styled cities where the mayor is full time and has increased executive authority. I believe this should be viewed a just part of the evolutionary process. [A new position was created, though it appears likely that Stodola's choice for the job will come from the city manager's staff, though that has not been confirmed yet.]

I know you perhaps believe the mayor's office is not involved in projects, but let me mention a few:

Conducting regular meetings of the Mayor's Crime Prevention Task Force; a new juvenile diversion program between city/ prosecutor's office, the schools and the courts, for which we are receiving technical assistance from the NLC; a mentoring program I am trying to get off the ground at Hamilton Learning Academy in conjunction with Philander, Arkansas Baptist and UALR; the federal multi jurisdictional Violent Crime Reduction Network of which the mayor's office is a part ;regular meetings of the Mayor's Tourism Commission and the Mayor's Sustainability Commission; a housing rehab program I want to establish with Americorps volunteers;developing Phase 2 of the Creative Corridor; and establishing Broadband connectivity in all our public housing which the HUD secretary has requested we achieve. The Mayor's office is also responding and working with our veteran's drop in center to end homelessness for veterans and I would like to work with our homeless day resource center on some transitional housing in a small subdivision adjacent to the center that has several vacant and boarded up houses.

Add the AAC ,the I-30 project and the Mayor's Youth Council volunteer program to the mix and it is a pretty full plate.

My understanding is the job(s) are being advertised. I have not interviewed or offered anyone a position at this time.

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