LIMA — With a 4-4 vote during its Monday night meeting, Lima city councilors rejected the creation of a chief technology officer position as proposed for the third and final time.
While initial conversations signified wide support for establishing an enterprise-level technology department in the city administration, the following two-month long discussion over multiple city meetings set up enough arguments against its formation to result in four councilors – Jon Neeper, Sam McLean, Rebecca Kreher and Derry Glenn – keeping the ordinance from passing.
Arguments mostly concerned the department’s affordability, its head’s appointment process and by the end, the position’s qualifications. Councilors McLean and Neeper argued against spending city funds on something they said was unnecessary. Councilors Kreher and Glenn both said they couldn’t support the department’s formation if its head was a mayoral appointee.
Interestingly, public comment by resident Robert DeVita Monday night also brought forward another concern yet unstated by councilors on public record — the filling of the position by Jermaine Harper. Harper had formally worked for Mayor David Berger during the mayor’s re-election campaign.
Harper’s name had also come up earlier this year when council had set allocation amounts for Community Development Block Grant funds. At that time, Harper had submitted a grant proposal for an entrepreneur workshop program aimed at helping low- to moderate-income individuals.
In reaction to the DeVita’s comment, Berger said Harper was not qualified for the proposed chief technology officer position and that he had no plans to hire Harper if the position was created.
Similar to past comments, Berger also said he had no shortlist for the position, and he would pursue the same appointment process as the other department heads on his staff.
During Monday night, discussion was relatively short prior to the ordinance’s final vote. At that time, Councilor Carla Thompson asked Auditor Randy Bartels if the city could afford hiring a chief technology officer at the stated salary of $90,000. Bartels affirmed the city had the funds available as of now, but he said he was not sure if he will be able to make the same affirmation in three or four years.
Councilor Glenn also gave a short speech similar to what he said two weeks ago restating that he wanted to open up the job to college-educated “kids” outside of town who can’t find job opportunities in their fields in Lima.
As for the City of Lima’s next step in improving its technology infrastructure, Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith said she would go back to city staff and start on Plan B.
“The need is still there.” Smith said. “Every day, the need for a technology department at the enterprise-level continues to grow.”
Berger said he also plans on reintroducing the position in his 2019 budget estimates, at which time, the issue will most likely be revisited.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.