City of Edmonds Finance Director Roger Neumaier resigns, citing lack of respect, civility from some on City Council

Roger Neumaier, City of Edmonds Finance Director

Roger Neumaier

Citing a lack of respect and micromanagement by some on the Edmonds City Council, recently hired City of Edmonds Finance Director Roger Neumaier has submitted his letter of resignation to Mayor Dave Earling, effective Jan. 31

According to a City of Edmonds press release:

In his letter of resignation, Neumaier stated that Edmonds is a wonderful city and the caliber of employees working for the City is outstanding. He applauds Mayor Earling for his excellent management skills and for his integrity and kindness.

 

However, Neumaier states that there are challenges here at the city and points to the “lack of respect”, “micromanagement” and “lack of civility” of certain councilmembers,” the press release continued. “He stated that he ‘could not have imagined a circumstance where he would be resigning at this time”, and also cited “the level of conflict and disrespect that has occurred.’”

 

The Mayor accepted his resignation, stating that “we are very sorry to lose Roger Neumaier. Roger brought knowledge, insight, and a depth and breadth of experience that was valuable to this City.” The Mayor also reflected, “this is a serious issue, and the Council will need to challenge themselves with how to better interact with staff. I will be meeting with Council leadership to explore ways to create more effective relationships between staff and the City Council.”

 

The Mayor’s intent is to hire a new Finance Director as soon as possible.

 

Prior to coming to Edmonds, Neumaier had served as finance director for Snohomish County since 1999.

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26 Comments

  1. This is depressing, how may finance directors can this council burn up?

  2. It will be more difficult to find a good candidate as ‘word is out’ that Edmonds does burn through its financial leaders.

  3. This council needs training on people skills embarrassing.

  4. I would like to hear some specific examples.

  5. How many is this now? Three in how many years? Wow.

  6. Who or what is the common denominator in these situations?

  7. Mr. Neumaier,

    As I stated to you last year, thank your kindly for all the hard work you did on the budget and spending the additional time reconciling the numbers (as we had yet another new format) for Ms. Petso and myself. It was gracious of you to apologize to Ms. Johnson in open session for the computer snafu during the budgetary process and always being available for questions and posting all those questions on the web so the citizens could also be involved.

    I had thought we had turned the corner and was looking forward to the New Year and working through the issues we have at hand.

    While we have had seven financial directors in the past 11 years, three left as they had better job offers and two left because of personal issues. But I still get your points.

    Good Luck and best wishes to you and your family. Happy Trails and yes we do have an excellent staff.

  8. Council President Diane
    Who is talking about in the resignation letter?

  9. The first person someone in leadership must lead is him or herself. True leadership stems from having an understanding of what the words Honor, Courage, and Commitment really mean.

    Or more simply put: if my children saw me treating another individual this way would I proudly claim my actions and want them to follow my example?

    Leadership is not about power and control, it is about being a broker of the gifts and talents in his or her control and using those to accomplish and lead others toward a common goal.

  10. So what? This person’s resignation is a clear opportunity to find a more highly qualified person.

    But yes, this gentleman’s resignation is a set back, but only a very minor and temporary one.

    Not that recently, there was a lot of turbulence in employee relationships and our money was being wasted through poor management. That is now largely in our rear view mirrors, Our elected officials have done well to rectify the problems they inherited.

    Are they. the elected ones, perfect? Certainly not. Are there probably instances of “Micromanaging”? Very likely. Should the Mayor and Council members each self examine their relationship with the departing person for possible overbearing acts and attitudes? Absolutely.

    And then they should continue to do their outstanding work by finding a new highly qualified candidate for one of the best jobs available in Edmonds. It wouldn’t hurt to consider one with obvious and long term roots in our community.

    The City Council clearly has oversight responsibility while a budget director must serve those interests as well as satisfy the direct authority of the Mayor. He/she needs to be adroit and savvy enough to avoid gettng tangled in the built in checks and balances of the Mayor/council form of government.

    Quitters never win, and winners never quit!

  11. I have had the pleasure of working alongside Roger Neumaier for the past seven months. During that time, I found him to be professional, trustworthy and highly knowledgeable. His level of expertise, in addition to a collaborative and thoughtful approach to problem solving, is greatly appreciated by me and other Directors.

    Roger, I wish you well!!!!

    Stephen Clifton
    Community Services/Economic Development Director

  12. Dear Ms. Buckshnis,
    While I will take you at your word that three previous finance directors left for “better jobs” I am hopeful the CC will not summarily dismiss that as an irrelevant point. I do not know how you define the term “better jobs” but money does not necessarily serve as the defining point of job satisfaction. “Better” indeed may be the very points Mr. Neumaier is making, in other words better because they are not being micromanaged or operating in an environment where lack of respect and civility prevail. The same can be said of people leaving for “personal issues”…those personal issues could include a desire for a more positive work environment. In my humble opinion, 7 persons filling ANY position in an 11 year span dictates an inward look on everybody’s part.

  13. Mr. Neumaier refers to seven finance directors in the last 11 years and opines that these individuals apparently faced similar challenges. I wonder how he developed this opinion.

    The current 6 City Councilmembers have been in office an average of roughly 3.67 years over the last 11 years. I do not believe any of the current Councilmembers were in office between January 1, 2005 and January of 2009. Why is it Mr. Neumaier’s opinion that City Councilmembers no longer in office caused former finance directors challenges similar to what he claims he has faced?

    I hope this isn’t simply the latest example of the “praise Mayor/staff and blame everything on Council” tactic.

    I had one interaction with Mr. Neumaier. I sent him three emails requesting specific information about the Edmonds Center for the Arts/PFD. He never answered one question. Instead he sent me the following response on September 11, 2013:

    “As was discussed in Council Committee yesterday, I will begin to put together a list of the questions that were asked over the past couple of days and then work on a response. As I indicated to the Council yesterday, I need to focus on the budget first and foremost at this point. I will share a copy of my response with you when it goes to Council.”

    I never heard from him again. Yesterday, after seeing his resignation announcement, I emailed him a reminder that I have been waiting nearly 4 months for a response.

    • Following are 4 of the questions I asked Roger Neumaier during September of 2013 related to the Edmonds Center for the Arts/PFD:

      1. I understand that during 2008, the City agreed to provide credit support to the PFD to assist the PFD in making payments on its bonds. I also understand that if any portion of these loans is not repaid by the time the PFD’s authority to impose Sales Tax expires (not earlier than 2026), that the unpaid loan amounts will convert to a City Ownership interest in the Edmonds Center for the Arts. What I do not understand is the benefit of the unpaid loan amounts converting into a City Ownership interest in the Edmonds Center for the Arts. Won’t the City already have this ownership interest when the PFD’s authority to impose Sales Tax expires? The October 26, 2010 City Council Meeting Minutes state that Mr. McIalwain noted when the PFD legislation sunsets, the ECA reverts to a City-owned facility. Please explain.

      2. Please provide an update projected to actual Tier 2 County PFD revenues for years 2008-2026. Is the projected shortfall for years 2008-2026 still in the vicinity of $4,352,758?

      3. The WSAO’s 2011 Schedule of Audit Findings and Responses indicated that between 2008-2010, the EPFD borrowed $441,596 from restricted funds to help pay for operating expenses. Has this interfund loan been repaid yet?

      4. The WSAO’s 2011 Schedule of Audit Findings and Responses contained the following Finding:
      “The District’s financial position continues to place it at risk of not meeting its financial obligations”
      Why would the City even consider granting the EPFD money before the 2012 audits are complete?

      I just reviewed the State Auditor’s website as of today, January 11, 2014 and it appears that the related 2012 audits are not yet complete. The 2011 Audits were released on October 29, 2012. The 2012 Audits are taking more time to complete and release than the 2011 Audits did.

  14. I have been keeping aware of city activities since 2003. Here’s what I know about Finance Directors since then. Peggy Hetzler left in 2003 for a similar position at a larger city in California. Dan Clements retired in 2008. Kathleen Junglov left in 2009 for perhaps a bigger position at FD1. Lorenzo Hines resigned in 2011 to take the same position at Lynnwood, a smaller city; he’s still employed there. Jim Tarte served on an interim basis. Shawn Hunstock left in 2013 to take the same position at the City of Maple Valley, a much smaller city; he’s still employed there. Ron Cone served on an interim basis. Roger Neumaier resigned on the second last day of 2013; destination not publicly known.

  15. As an engaged Edmonds citizen, I have attended all of the Finance and City Council meetings at which Mr. Neumaier made presentations. I observed him to be very courteous and tolerant in his demeanor and in his approach to Council, other staff and citizens. He and I had a variety of conversations about various aspects of the City’s finances. He was always patient with his explanations, making sure I understood them, and timely provided the information I requested. His knowledge, expertise and standing among finance directors and staff in the region were invaluable to our City. He is a consummate professional. I thank him for his service to Edmonds and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

    Bruce Witenberg

  16. Ron and Bruce, I know you attend most of the finance committee meetings. What do you recall of any heated discussions at finance meetings?

  17. I agree with Mr. Witenberg’s comments about Mr. Neumaier.

    In June 2013, I was approached by a gentleman who is an active participant in the Edmonds community. The gentleman told me that Mr. Neumaier was seeking input on the monthly and quarterly financial reports that are published on the city’s website. The gentleman knew that I had work experience relevant to financial reporting.

    I spent quite a bit of time reviewing the reports and suggesting ways of improving the reports to make them more understandable to the general public.

    I sent my analysis to Mr. Neumaier via e-mail. Later that day, I received a telephone call from Mr. Neumaier thanking me for submitting recommendations for improvement. We spoke for awhile on the telephone. I was quite humbled that the city’s finance director would take the time to speak to me.

    I join Mr. Witenberg and Mr. Clifton in wishing Mr. Neumaier the best of luck in his future endeavors.

    Happy New Year!

  18. Seems like the guilty person(s) should have the decency to apologize. .

  19. I have worked closely with City staff (dept head and lead managers 15+)and its elected officials, mayors (3),and council members(12+) since 2000. My role has been on boards and commissions and committees. Conflicts abound! Mostly about money. Where does it come from, where is it, and how do we spend it. My observation is that almost all of the conflicts I have seen have been a shared guilt. Mostly because the vision of the past and future held by one person is in conflict with the other person. The list to way to large for this discussion.

    Witnessing these conflict lead me to a conclusion about 7 years ago. Edmonds needs to create a way for more people to weigh in on our past and future. We have 40,000+ folks living here, 20,000+ voters, and 13,000+or- voters with limited understanding of the total picture. Voting is just one way to find out the views of the people but Edmonds went a step further and developed a Strategic Plan. Council approved the plan 6 to 1. The plan has 89 action items with many items recieving 70% or more positive votes from a statistically valid sample of voters. More than 2500 people were involved with the development of the plan and my read is that the citizens have created the agenda for Edmonds and it is time to move forward with more work on all the items outlined in the SP.

    Money, how do we get it, where is it, how do we spend it. Because we do not have all the money to do all the things some would want we need a process to better allocate limited funds. For example, Edmonds on our own is not likely to come up with $9000 per household that it would take to invest $180,000,000 to address all the issues with the waterfront.

    Our process of allocating scares dollars is the problem in my view. 8 elected or appointed officials, Council and Mayor, and 7plus or minus dept heads do this today. With the differing views of money and ways to spend it held by these folkswe will continue to create the conflicts going forward just as they have past. Without a better process in place the next finance director will not likely have a job tenure any longer than those of the past.

    The public has already spoken and the number one item in the SP that relates to the city’s work is Budgeting By Priorities. Project Accountibility is right up there too. The percent in favor of BBP is over 80%.

    When council was given the $600,000 to spend in this upcoming budget they trotted out a number of items. All were interesting things and one was to spend $100,000 or more on the wetlands. Great idea but my view is the council voted to fix the wrong swamp.

    They should have moved forward with BUDGETING BY PRIORITIES. The current issue of the finance director leaving is just a symptom of the problem; we need to fix the problem. Council can easily move forward with launching BBP. There are many ways to skin this cat (not one on a leash though) and they only need to decide to move forward. Council is scheduled to have their annual retreat in early Feb and that would be a good time if not before to fund a plan that helps more people understand the primary issues: Money, how do we get it, where is it, how do we spend it. That is Budgeting By Priorities in a nutshell.

  20. I am still in shock and disbelief regarding Mr. Neumaier’s termination.

    We both have spent our careers serving the public in this great state as civil servants, Mr. Neumaier and I have had many conversations about our service.
    Just because we are civil servants doesn’t give individuals be council or the public the right to abuse us in our roles.

    I am so sorry that he was subject too “lack of respect”, “micromanagement” and “lack of civility”. Mr. Neumaier is a kind and professional man who deserved better. I and many other enjoyed working with him and his consensus approached to differences. He always answered my questions and explained his reasoning. I wish him the best and I’m sure what ever he does a more respectful environment.

    In my view, I am also sorry that he was not protected fully by the administration in the City of Edmonds. He deserved better. This should have never got to this point where he felt the need to leave.
    This situation would not have been permitted to get as far as it did under a professional manager.
    .

  21. I certainly wouldnt quit a job over what the city council does so they give you a hard time big deal, how many people are micromanaging the seahawks right now just about everybody thats a fan, It seems to me that the less you get paid or know about something the more you micromanage, when the people that are getting paid the big bucks and have some clout are micromanaging then i would pay attention whats a council member get 100 bucks plus a week let em vent

  22. Councilmember Fraley-Monillas,
    Your post mentions Mr. Neumaier’s termination. Did Mr. Neumaier resign or was he actually terminated?
    In your last sentence, you refer to a professional manager. Are you referring to a City Manager form of government or current Mayor’s managment abilities.

    • Mr. Tupper~ Sorry for the confusion, he terminated himself or he quit. Having a professional manager at the helm might have been able to resolve this before he felt the need to leave. Managing a work force is a skill set that not everyone instinctively has.

  23. As a former Finance, or Administrative Services Director, thought I would add a few thoughts. First, I very much enjoyed working with all members of the Council during my time with the City: my departure had nothing to do with the Council.

    My eldest son was murdered in Brier in 2006, and the subsequent trial and appeals (still ongoing) made it difficult to focus on complex financial issues. I hired a second in command who had exceptional skills, and felt it best to pass the reins along to new talent.

    My successor, Kathleen, was hired from the City of Everett as part of succession planning. You would need to contact Kathleen, but I do not believe her departure had anything to do with Council interactions.

    Former Councilmember Ron Wambolt chaired the Finance Committee much of the time Kathleen and I were CFO’s, and he brought a high level of expertise and respect, and it was a pleasure to work with him, as it was then Mayor Haakenson.

    Prior to working for Edmonds, I was CFO for Snohomish County, and hired Roger Neumaier as one of my two deputy directors. Roger is a talented financial professional, and it is a shame that the “fit” with the City did not work out.

    Edmonds is a wonderful city with a dedicated staff. Being a local elected official is demanding work. Being a municipal employee in this day and age is brutal. My hope would be that all parties be tough on issues, yet supportive of each other. Different opinions and perspectives are extremely valuable, as are respecting and supporting everyone.

    Dan Clements
    425.418.8755 | dan@e-clements.com

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