The rift in St. Clairsville City Council widened during a meeting that left the future of the finance director's post in doubt and long-time Mayor Robert Vincenzo saying he may resign.
The meeting followed Friday's announcement that the new finance director, Brian Johnson, had decided to resign. He cited the volume and complexity of the system and a lack of support.
Johnson took office Feb. 22 and will leave the position at the end of this week. He was selected after council chose not to accept the mayor's appointment of Jill Lucidi, who had served as finance director for 17 years. Council members Terry Pugh, Libby Heintzelman, Perry Jones and Frank Sabatino voted against the recommendation, while Jim Weisgerber, John Bukmir and Jake Olsavsky voted in favor.
Monday night, Vincenzo said he had contacted the state regarding the city's options, but no solutions had been provided. He also had contacted a firm with about the possibility of handling the city's finances in the interim.
In addition, Vincenzo cited a lack of qualified applicants who reside in the city. He added that while he has asked council for direction, he has received very little feedback.
"When your hands are tied, it's very hard to come up with a solution," he said. "We have never been put into this situation where this city has been facing this type of an emergency."
Vincenzo added that if his inquiries yield any results, it is unlikely a plan could be implemented before Friday. He said Johnson contacted the state auditor's office and has been writing checks by hand. The bills for major expenses such as power, insurance and invoices are being paid. Johnson guaranteed payroll for the first of the month will be met by the end of this month.
However, after Friday, the city will be without a finance director. With no one authorized to sign the checks, the city's finances will be shut down.
"When he leaves, we are shut down," Vincenzo said. "Again, we are dead in the water. I did not perform a miracle over the weekend, and I don't think I'll perform a miracle by the end of the week."
Vincenzo asked for instruction from council.
Weisgerber made a motion that council authorize the mayor to contact Lucidi and offer her the position of finance director. Council assented 4-3, with Heintzelman, Sabatino and Jones voting against the plan and Weisgerber, Olsavsky and Bukmir voting in favor. Pugh was not present. Council president pro-tem Pat Bruhn cast the tie-breaking vote in favor.
Disputes flared up again almost immediately when Vincenzo said Lucidi had indicated she would be willing to take the post again if asked. Jones voiced suspicion that arrangements had been made without council's knowledge.
Vincenzo denied that and said Lucidi had indicated willingness to return during unrelated conversations.
"You don't want her here, but you give me a solution," Vincenzo said, expressing anger at what he called a lack of direction, support and confidence from council. He said he would consider submitting his own resignation, which would be effective May 1. "You're going to fill two positions. ... I am at my wit's end. You're not going to put me down with a heart attack because of this."
Service Director Dennis Bigler said the list of applicants is limited by the need to appoint a city resident to the post. He also said audits have revealed no issues with city finances. He voiced concern that the state might take over city finances if the matter goes unresolved.
Heintzelman suggested asking Lucidi to return in a training or consulting role until a new director can be prepared. She noted she had no wish to see Vincenzo resign.
Vincenzo delayed the appointment until a future meeting, citing Pugh's absence and the split vote.