Clerk position needs reboot

By BRYAN DAVIS EDITOR,

The train went off the rails again at this week’s meeting of the Indianola Board of Aldermen.

This week’s bickering is over an issue that is likely going to come to a head sometime soon if not properly addressed. 

The city leaders had better stop fighting and work this one out.

The latest fracas stemmed from a discussion over whether the city should add a fulltime assistant for city clerk Lashanda Moore.

Moore told the board that she had an “overload” of work and needs help. Fulltime help.

Aldermen Marvin Elder and Gary Fratesi raised concerns during the last meeting of the board after it was proposed that Moore head up the city’s partnership with the Mississippi Municipal League on a state debt collections initiative.

Elder countered, suggesting the city appoint Municipal Clerk Teresa Nolden to head it up.

The board voted 4-1 toward Moore taking on the project.

In their defense, Moore did indicate that she could handle it, unless it involved new obligations on top of her current duties.

Moore’s handling of her day-to-day duties as city clerk has been a topic of conversation since late summer when the board was on the verge of hitting the new fiscal year on Oct. 1 without a budget.

It was also revealed during that time that Moore, nor her predecessors, have been submitting monthly financial reports to the board and Mayor Steve Rosenthal for multiple years. 

The budget crisis in September would lead one to think that putting additional work on Moore’s plate at this time may not be a great idea.

And there’s no doubt that after a year on the job, the city clerk does need assistance.

The only question is what kind of help does she need?

Rosenthal suggested that the city needs to pay for proper training for Moore, so that she is well versed in her job description and is aware of all of the expectations that come with being city clerk.

Fair enough.

Elder contends that it’s time for the city to lighten the load of the city clerk and hire a fulltime assistant.

That’s fair too.

The confusion stems from the fact that previous city clerks spent well over 40 hours a week completing their tasks. It was suggested that some worked 60-80-hour work weeks, even coming in on Saturdays and Sundays to keep pace.

It’s great to have dedicated employees who are willing to go above and beyond for the cause, but 60-80 hours a week is not a reasonable expectation.

Moore has spent the past year drinking out of the fire hose, and the workload is obviously too much.

She deserves the chance to undergo proper training for a municipal clerk and be given the opportunity to prove she can handle the duties of the position as outlined by the state.

Moore should not be on the hook for additional duties that were taken on by past clerks as the city tried to do more with less, and she should not be made to feel ashamed if she can’t handle the duties that are outside the scope of her position.

As much as they fought on Monday night, Rosenthal and Elder are both right.

Moore needs professional development.

And the city needs to identify all of the duties previous city clerks have done that are outside the scope of the state-dictated job description and provide Moore with assistance in fulfilling those tasks.

Rosenthal will likely veto the vote to hire the fulltime assistant in writing, just as he did vocally at Monday’s meeting, and with good reason.

If Moore is not well-versed on her duties as clerk, what good is an assistant?

The city could hire 50 assistants, and if none of them know what is expected of them, we’ll get the same results.

It is clear that the expectations that exist for Moore today are the result of previous clerks putting in ridiculous hours while fulfilling many duties outside the bounds of the clerk’s position.

A new fulltime position at City Hall is likely in the cards, but if hired today, who would train the new employee?

If Moore gets the professional development she needs and deserves, she and future clerks should have no problems running the business of the city.

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