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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  walk out of the proceedings in an apparent act of protest. 

Now, Hyattsville has a director of its in , formerly the city's communications director and acting head of the Recreation and Arts Department. 

And the city code enforcement office has a new manager in

Perry walked out of the proceedings just after 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 for a job in California. Yeskulsky .

"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 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. 

J.W. Hampton July 24, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Michael, While it may feel to Chris Giunta that he has been responsible for Code Enforcement for the last 4 years, he's actually only been blessed with that challenge since November 2009.
J.W. Hampton July 24, 2012 at 11:06 AM
BTW-It's about time the Council got off their....."seats", and did right by Chris. No emplopyee should be held in limbo for that long.
upmd July 24, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Is there any discussion of Mr. Giunta receiving compensation for the almost three years that he ran his department? Chris was more than a place holder; he changed the way the residents viewed code enforcement while implementing new programs. I have only dealt with him a few times, but he has truly benefitted our city. The praise residents and business owners gave him at last night's meeting speaks to Mr. Giunta's character and work ethic. Mrs. Sandel received $2000 for each month she served as acting director. It's about time the mayor and council came together and did the right thing.
HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter July 24, 2012 at 05:55 PM
"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." Yeah, these events are not bringing in people from around the region. Giunta needs to think bigger and better. We need a $1000 monthly art contest, where the contestant's art is displayed in the empty studio in American Plaza, which should have frequent art shows serving white wine and serve espresso from 9-5. The contestants would have to be residents of Hyattsville. The winner's art would be purchased by the city for $1000 and become part of the permanent display. This would cost the city next to nothing and serve to publicly promote the gateway arts district in Hyattsville. It would make regional news and attract more artists.
aaboccardi July 24, 2012 at 06:15 PM
"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." Perry's comments seem contradictory. So, she wants someone who knows the city well, but who is also from outside of the city? Or wait, she wants someone who has only worked for the city for a short period, but knows the city well? Or maybe she wants someone who has worked for the city a long time, knows the city well, and can be promoted? Wait, isn't that what she was protesting? Hats off to both Ms. Sandel and Mr. Guinta; two individuals who care deeply about the community they serve and live in.
J.W. Hampton July 24, 2012 at 06:34 PM
@ Hyattsvillecouldbebetter - McKnight wasn't speaking about Chris Giunta, he was speaking about Abby Sandel, the proposed Community Services Director. Chris Giunta was the proposed Code Compliance Manager. And what you propose would cost far more than "next to nothing".
J.W. Hampton July 24, 2012 at 06:44 PM
@ UMPD - The City's Personnel Manual provides for an increase in salary (generally 3-6%) for persons such as Chris Giunta who are placed in acting positions. I would agree that the City should reward Chris for not only moving the Deaprtment forward, but for his patience while the M & C took their time "getting around" to making a decision on what they were going to do about Code Enforcement's leadership.
HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter July 24, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Ok, Abby Sandel. Sry. $12,000 a year in prize money is next to nothing compared to this cities budget plus you have the added bonus of PR. In my opinion, $12,000 a year for the type of publicity it would generate is a steal. How much will our new city employees be making each year? They could just as easily find a venue to house the project and potentially generate revenue.
Michael Theis July 24, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Hey J.W., thanks for the correction. I've updated the story and included a correction notice in the body text.
J.W. Hampton July 24, 2012 at 07:23 PM
@ HCCB - Sorry, but I still don't understand how the City is going to generate revenue by spending $12,000 on art they have no place to display; either providing a venue or paying for a storefront to hold these events; providing a staff member to plan these events, suppying wine and espresso for visitors during the events; then of course paying the salary of a staff member(s) who would be responsible for working these events. I wonder whether you are actually a taxpaying City resident.
HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter July 24, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Yes, I pay property taxes here and do most of my shopping locally. They are already hiring someone to do this (Abby Sandel). They already own public space but I bet Busboys and Poets would display the art for free or any number of local stores interested in attracting more customers. Look at Outback Steakhouse sponsoring the beer event. They don't have to give away the wine and espresso, they could charge. And since Abby Sandel is also in charge of volunteer work, I bet one or more of the participating artists would be willing to work events. The bonus of this type of publicity would pay for itself over and over. If you are an artist trying to decide where to live, you might consider Hyattsville so that you could join the competition. The more residents that move into this city and spend money within this city, the more tax revenue the city will earn. I don't know why you are such a vision killer, but this is a good idea. I've seen this city spend a lot more money on market surveys and traffic calming studies. You clearly have to imagination. Why don't you come up with a good idea for improving this city?
J.W. Hampton July 24, 2012 at 07:55 PM
@ HCCB - Don't get me wrong I don't have a problem with the idea I just think it should be as self sufficient as possible. You're right, let the artists that are interested plan it, staff it, etc. The City could and should help advertise it, but instead of the City having to front the money to buy the art, why not ask a local business, like Outback Steakhouse, to sponsor the prize. Oh and trust me, I could tell you horror stories about the money this City has pissed away.
HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter July 24, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Thanks. In respect to how this relates to this article, I've been advocating that Hyattsville consider hiring a PR manager because of all the bad press this city gets. Since Abby Sandel's official job description is yet to be defined, I'd like to see someone actively promoting something special in this city. Other than 2 metro stops and the second largest city counsel in Maryland (despite having less than 30,000 residents) there is nothing special here in Hyattsville. We don't have much to offer new residents other than affordable housing, so I'd like to see the leaders in this community make improvements that will help businesses thrive and attract people from the surrounding metro areas. Without new residents like myself living here and making improvements, this city would be overrun by refugees from DC's gentrification. I'm tired of being smeared by MoCo, NoVa and DC residents. I pay a fat city tax and I want to see something from this city that benefits me. Why not take the "Arts District" and go with it. One art show a year and 12 local artists hardly lives up to the name.
J.W. Hampton July 24, 2012 at 08:54 PM
@ HCCB - If you haven't already, why don't you e-mail Abby with your suggestion. Perhaps your art event could be introduced at a Summer Jam to start. Sort of like a test to see how it would be received. Summer Jams are well attended and all the other aspects of your proposed art show idea (venue, food, beverages, etc.) are already in place. Give Abby a shout and see what see says. www.asandel@hyattsville.org.
Jim Groves July 24, 2012 at 09:03 PM
It seems that Paula has a real short memory. As both I brought up yesterday, the last time they did an outside hire it did not work so well. You have two people in Chris and Abby who are very competent, are Hyattsville residents and are doing the job now. They are not signing them on for a 10 year contract! If next year, after hopefully they hire all the other bigger positions that are needed (Administrator, DPW director) there is an issue, they can always look to post the job then. There was no immediate need to do it now. It was a waste of time and money. I also think it's totally ridiculous that Ms. Perry walked out. Grow up!
J.W. Hampton July 25, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Good Morning Jim, I believe the majority of the M & C, especially those that have been in office since 2007-2008, have a short memory. None of them seem to remember their past failures at choosing a DPW, Recreation & the Arts Director, or Treasurer.
Scurvy July 25, 2012 at 12:32 PM
It would serve the City well if Ms. Perry continued to leave the City Council. She has been a destructive force and the leader of a negative morale for all City employees. She does not like her constituents and constantly plays games with employees. I understand she is responsible for many of the resignations of department heads with her rumors and backstabbing. Ms Perry also does not know the meaning of confidentiality and is the first to distribute privileged information garnered in closed sessions for her own purposes. She is a sick, unhappy person who would serve the City best by resigning.
Robert W. Armentrout July 25, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Scurvy [appropriate definition for someone who doesn't sign their name]. In my opinion Paula has served the Fourth Ward well since 1999. If she is not doing her job to your liking run for the office. It is an unappreciated, time-consuming poorly rewarded undertaking. Robert W. Armentrout

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