DADE CITY — Dade City commissioners agreed Tuesday to schedule a workshop to discuss whether to divide City Clerk-City Finance Officer Jim Class’ responsibilities into two positions. Class has worked in the dual role for about 20 years.
Commissioner Jim Shive made a motion that the city should divide the responsibilities, making Class the finance director and creating a position for city clerk.
Commissioner Eunice Penix, who seconded the motion, said she had attended a Florida League of Cities conference where she had been told that the two positions usually are separate.
The commission decided to delay the vote and hold a workshop on the issue.
Mayor Camille Hernandez said she also was in favor of splitting the two jobs but pointed out that City Manager Billy Poe and Human Resources Director Shelley Francis were not present for the meeting so the vote should be delayed.
“I do think we need to move forward,” Hernandez said. “To not do anything is not the answer.”
Commissioner Scott Black, who asked that a workshop be held before a vote, said splitting the job would affect the recently adopted budget.
“This is not something we budgeted for,” he said. “We need to make a plan, and we need to talk about the pros and cons.”
Black suggested that the issue arose out of a personality conflict with Francis.
“Are there personality concerns involved?” Black asked. “I hesitate to throw this in because I think we have a very good HR director and a very good city clerk-finance director, but I know that some of this is because there has been some conflicts between the two of them and what role she plays in his department versus (being) a member of the city manager’s department.”
Black suggested the city call in an outside human resources director, possibly from Zephyrhills, to help work through the issue.
Shive disagreed. “I don’t believe we need to have Zephyrhills tell us what to do in Dade City.”
Hernandez said she had no problem with having an objective person look at the issue.
Before taking the positions, Class served as an assistant for about six years under Lindy Smith, who held the position for more than 35 years.
“I don’t have a personality conflict,” Class said. He said he and Francis have disagreed on some issues but that he does not consider disagreements to be personality conflicts. He also said he is not aware of any complaints about how he performs his duties.
Penix said she asked a variety of city officials from other Florida cities attending the Florida League of Cities conference in August and that none of the cities had the two positions combined.
She also said she was told there should be several people handling a city’s finances and that the positions should be separated to remove any appearance of conflicts of interest.
“They told me if something happens you are liable, and I really got scared,” she said.
“I know our director is good,” Penix said. “I don’t want him to think I want to get rid of him. I think he has done a fantastic job, but I think he’s overworked. I’ve thought that for years; it’s nothing personal.
It’s hard to change,” she said. “But we should be up to par with the other cities in Florida.”
Shive said in an interview Wednesday that his concerns are not personal but organizational and about the future of Dade City.
“I like Jim Class,” he said. “I think Jim is a great guy; it’s nothing personal. My decision was looking to the future for the city and to provide better customer service. I’ve got almost 30 years experience looking through the walls at City Hall. I see a need to reorganize. It’s time for change. I think we need to start thinking outside the box as we anticipate growth. There’s going to be more work for Jim and more work for the clerk.”
Shive said that some customer service problems were falling through the cracks and that there was a “disconnect” between the utility department and the billing department. He thought a change would help those problems.
Shive also said he is concerned that one person holds both positions. “Jim is the only one in the city that has all the financial information. If something were to happen to Jim, we’d be in trouble.”