Council Approves Permanent Promotions
Hyattsville has a new Code Enforcement Office manager and a director of new Community Services Department.
The Hyattsville City Council promoted two city staff members from acting to permanent positions, but not after a contentious debate which saw Councilor Paula Perry (Ward 4) walk out of the proceedings in an apparent act of protest.
And the city code enforcement office has a new manager in Chris Giunta, who had been filling that role in an acting capacity since November 2009.
Perry walked out of the proceedings just after Councilor Tim Hunt (Ward 3) moved for the city council to approve Sandel's promotion. Throughout the debate, Perry was critical of the performance of the Recreation and Arts Department under Sandel's tenure as acting head.
"I feel that this should be an outside hire," said Perry during debate. "I have seen people moved into positions who have not worked for the city that long, who truly don't know the city that well, and it has been a disaster."
The measure was originally drafted as a single item promoting both Sandel and Giunta at once. But at the outset of last night's meeting the city council voted to split the item into two measures, one for Sandel and one for Giunta, on Hunt's suggestion.
The measure was slightly rare in that it identified by name the two city employees who were up for consideration, providing a glimpse of how city staffers are evaluated in a promotional process. Mayor Tartaro said the breadth of personnel information disclosed in public documents was a mistake, and directed council members to avoid using Giunta's and Sandel's names during the meeting.
According to sources familiar with the deliberations, the city council used part of last week's closed session to discuss wether or not to keep those two hires in-house or conduct an outside search for the positions. But council members thought that such a discussion was better suited for a public forum, where it ended up last night.
Chris Vermillion, the city's director of human resources, recommended that the city keep the hires in-house.
In a memo to Mayor Marc Tartaro, the city council and Elaine Stookey, acting city administrator, Vermillion praised the work of both Sandel and Giunta.
Sandel, an employee of the city since 2009, was lauded for her ability to handle a demanding and ever changing workload. Already in charge of the city's communication efforts and media relations, Sandel took on the responsibilities of the city's Recreation and Arts Department in July 2011 following the resignation of department director Steve Yeskulsky for a job in California. Yeskulsky held the job for less than a year.
"I feel that over the past 12 months, Abby has more than adequately proved that she is up to the task of being promoted into the director position," wrote Vermillion in the memo. "Indeed, if we were to actively recruit for an outside director, given the time and money involved, as well as the possibility of hiring someone who might not perform well, I believe it would be in the city's best interest to promote Ms. Sandel."
Sandel will be taking on a position she herself designed. The Community Services Department is a new branch of the city government, which combines a number of city departments, from the public access cable channel to parks operations and volunteer and senior services. The idea for the Community Services Department was conceived of by Sandel as part of a reorganization of a number of the city's resident outreach programs. That reorganization was adopted during this spring's debates over the 2013 fiscal year budget for the city.
This was a cause of concern for Perry.
"I have a real problem with someone setting up a reorganization and creating their own position," said Perry.
Perry was joined in her criticism of the handling of the new Community Services Department director by Hunt, Councilor Nicole Hinds-Mofor and Councilor Ruth Ann Frazier, who all voted against the measure. Perry, who had left the council dias, did not cast a vote.
Hunt cited a lack of recreation and arts programming in his ward as one of the reasons he wanted the city to cast a wide net in its search for a Community Services Department director.
Frazier criticized a lack of information concerning Sandel's promotion, including a lack of a job description for the Community Services Department director.
"This has nothing to do with a personality," said Frazier during debate. "This has to do with information that needs to be provided to us so that we can pick the right individual."
But Sandel's promotion was backed by seven other city council members. Council President Matthew McKnight responded to criticism of Sandel's performance by citing an increase in children's camp options offered by the city and an improved Hyattsville day celebration.
"There are vastly more people showing up to city events, and that has to do with the communications director," said McKnight during debate. "The carnival and parade were better than any previous year. The only things I've heard about that are good things."
Giunta's promotion, taken up directly following Sandel's, was passed unanimously with little comment.
"I wouldn't want to let this opportunity to go by without the chance to say that this is long overdue and well deserved," said Councilor Shani Warner of Giunta's promotion.
Giunta also received the backing of Nina Faye, chairperson of the city's Code Enforcement Advisory Committee. Reading from a letter issued by the advisory committee, Faye said that she was impressed with Giunta's professionalism, leadership and knowledge of community issues.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the length of Giunta's tenure as acting head of the city's code management office. The editor regrets this error, which has been amended.