Departing Finance Director Roger Neumaier: Uncivil behavior not limited to one councilmember

Roger Neumaier, City of Edmonds Finance Director

Roger Neumaier, City of Edmonds Finance Director

Roger Neumaier has resigned as Edmonds Finance Director effective the end of this month. In his resignation letter, he cited “lack of respect and civility” by some on the Edmonds City Council.

Asked by My Edmonds News to elaborate on specifics, Neumaier said that this behavior is not limited to one councilmember nor is it directed strictly at himself. He stated that many of the city’s directors face similar treatment in dealing with councilmembers.

“To name an individual in this case would be to lower the discussion to allow all that I find unproductive” Neumaier said. “I’m not the only director who faces this kind of atmosphere. I think the problem requires some overall organizational changes rather than focusing on specific persons.”

Neumaier said he felt that the professional directors who work for the city are not always treated with the respect for their professional capabilities. “Edmonds has one of the finest groups of dedicated professional department directors anywhere around,” he said. “To be treated as if we are incompetent in our jobs and questioned about our abilities can be very disheartening.”

“I have been doing government accounting for two decades and have developed a level of expertise,” he added. “I try and stay in the background and not make issues into a personal power-play, but more into just doing the right thing.”

Neumaier mentioned that his fear is that Edmonds’ professional staff will have a hard time filling positions with the best-qualified people and the “working environment” is perhaps even more important than money when recruiting and retaining high-quality staff.

Neumaier said he didn’t feel the difficulties were of a personal nature but more because of a lack of respect for the professionalism for the city’s staff. By mentioning the topic in his resignation, he hoped that it might benefit the city to have the issue brought to the forefront.

Neumaier is near retirement age and doesn’t need to stay in a job where he feels uncomfortable, he said. He was an English major in college and thinks this might be an opportunity for him to refocus his efforts — maybe even write a book.

– By Harry Gatjens

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15 Comments

  1. Roger, and your point is…?

    Why can’t you be honest about the fact; you removed $4.9 million dollar asset from the 2012 City Financial Statement without Council approval.

    Even if this accounting entry was correct, why didn’t you run it by the City Council prior to publication of the City’s 2012 Financial Statement?

  2. Harry, as you know I enjoy the site. I would find it more informative if I could get both sides of a story instead of someone’s blanket statement. I would be better informed if any council members had been ask to respond. If so I would fine it more interesting to get both sides of a story. You know Council has over-sight obligations and I cannot tell if this is a director who was moving funds as Tupper states and running into council over-sight or micranagement because only one side of a debatable sorry is presented. I like reading both side. Your story gave no notice that you ask for council comment or just ran with one side of what could be a questionable movement of public funds. I wish you would ask mayor and council financial chair to give a prospective on millions of dollars of public funds being questioned. Thank you Harry.

  3. Does “just doing the right thing” include making vague, undefined accusations of unnamed City Council Members? Making it worse, the charges appear subjective and the citizens only have one side’s opinion. I believe that very unfair to our hard working City Council members.

    On Monday of this week I emailed Mr. Neumaier the following:

    I also want to make you aware of a concept you may want to consider. By choosing to not name “certain City Council members” in your resignation letter, you may have cast aspersions on the entire City Council. Please consider such and take steps to correct if necessary.

  4. Mr. Neumaier seems to be trying to revive the last gasps of a dying, ( I thought all ready dead) unpleasant and tumultuous period of governing in Edmonds that we really don’t need to re-visit. I sense his position is a bit negative, and thus not too useful.

    In my past 44 years I prefer to remember the really neat leaders we have had. Mayor Hall and all the other Mayors with one exception. stand out as do a goodly number of staff members. There has to be more such individuals available to serve in one of the best jobs in Edmonds.

    Mr. Art Houser, the outstanding longtime and long serving Budget Director, would come to virtually all Council meetings with his big budget book and he would answer 90% of the questions asked on the spot. A few times he would get back to the person promptly. He was there to serve, period, not judge. He and Sandy, our longtime City Clerk really stand out in my memory, as unusually effective and admired employees.

    So now Mr. Neumaier is concerned the city won’t be able to find a qualified replacement for himself? Really now? I disagree.

    I would make one tiny, perhaps two suggestions. Perhaps the Mayor should not choose a replacement 3-4 years from retirement and one who has served in very high powered and senior positions. Also a tad bit of ingrained humility might be an attribute in order to lengthen the person’s stay in office.

    Finally, I believe Mayor Earling has and will to continue to demand a reasonable level of respect for all Edmonds employees.

    .

  5. I too would like to here both sides of the story, but more importantly no examples of this behavior were given.

  6. Thanks Mr. Plunkett. There are always at least two sides to any story. From my perspective, Council (as our legislative branch) has 3 primary functions: 1) Enact and revise ordinances/code, 2) Approve budgets and financial statements, and 3) Provide oversight as to ordinance, code, and budget implementations. As such, city officials should expect (and be prepared for) challenging questions, especially when issues at hand are controversial, emotional, and –surely– when finances (i.e. changes to financial reporting/accounting) are involved. I have great respect for the City staff. But that doesn’t mean they are perfect any more than any of us are. Council is by no means perfect either. But I’m thankful we have council members having differing perspectives that pay attention and exercise their role to provide checks & balances of our governmental processes.

    I wish Mr. Neumaier well in his future endeavors.

  7. Does anyone know if Finance committee meetings are recorded? I recall at one I attended there was a recording of the proceedings. The reason for the question is that the notes published for the meeting I attended did not reflect what was actually being said. A recording of the meetings if available would help us all understand what has happened in the past at what are the nature of the differences.

    • When I was Chair of Finance and Mr Hines was Financial Director I started to record for just that reason Darrol. Mr Hines resigned soon after so we only have have one or two recorded sessions but it should be available to you. So in general I would start recording again because Mr Haug’s point is well taken.

  8. It is my understanding that there are recordings available. But it would be my hope that we can just move forward, rather than dwell on past drama (looking for scapegoats). There is much to do…

  9. The past drama is important for the public to understand the root of the issues. Yes we can move on but what are we trying to solve? There is likely a basis for the differing viewpoints and the public should know what the root of the problems are. In finance there are really only 3 things. Where does the money come from, where is it, and how do we spend it. Not as complicated as it may sound. While looking into the levy issues it was quite clear some of the answers to all 3 things and the public should know more about each.

  10. Council members (and the mayor for that matter) should ask for and demand accountability for management of public funds (especially major expenditures). Of course, it would also be good management to refrain from belligerent or demeaning behavior when providing that oversight. I agree with all who call for hearing both sides; maybe the council can provide a coordinated response.

  11. Teresa could you put up a link to the Beacon where several council members have comented

    • Don — I would invite Councilmembers to comment here if they are so inclined.

  12. i agree with the above – there are ALWAYS multiple ways of perceiving any issue

    anyone that has ever attended a court trial knows how upon hearing the situation initially – it’s an open and closed case

    THEN – as you begin to hear another opinion . . .

    it sounds like a completely different situation

  13. I suppose we will hear from the afflicted council members just as soon as Mr. Neumair is out of sight. I think if you attended the city council meetings during the Harbor Square hearings you probably have a pretty good idea of what council members Mr. Neumair is referring to..
    I also think to up a quit, is a cop out. If he wanted to help us change someones behavior he should put those people on point, go to his boss the Mayor and insist that the Mayor handle the problem. The way it has been handeld creates a losing situation for the city and the council.

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