County finance director needed, councilman says

EVERETT — For the past year, Snohomish County has gone without a position required by its own code: a finance director.

Depending on whom you ask, that’s either a gross lack of oversight or a mere technicality.

The County Council is set to take up the issue soon, as they approach what’s bound to be a challenging budget season.

“I’m really worried about it,” County Councilman Ken Klein said. “It’s not just the legal aspect, but for good business practices.”

County Executive John Lovick maintains that his administration has qualified managers in place to watch over county money, whether or not anyone’s wearing the finance director’s hat.

The county code spells out the role of the finance department. It specifies that “the director shall be appointed by the executive subject to confirmation by the county council.”

After Lovick took office last year, long-time county finance director Roger Neumaier resigned to take another job.

Lovick’s administration didn’t formally appoint anyone to the top finance post. Instead, Lovick’s second-in-command, Mark Ericks, assumed some of Neumaier’s responsibilities, sharing them with two upper-level finance employees.

“Unfortunately, due to budget constraints and a number of circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to fill that position as planned,” Lovick wrote last week in a letter to the council.

Klein earlier this year raised concerns about the absence of a finance director, citing sections of the county’s code and charter.

County prosecutors say he’s right — the job needs to be filled.

To comply, Lovick’s office is proposing to name another top manager to the office as a temporary finance chief.

Lenda Crawford, an executive director hired in mid-April, manages Paine Field, the Public Works Department, human resources, and the office of public defense. She’s already guiding efforts to draft the county budget for 2015. Under the executive’s proposal, Crawford would be named temporary finance director until a permanent hire is made, perhaps some time next year.

“Lenda Crawford came to us with background in finance,” said Gary Haakenson, another top manager in Lovick’s administration. “We look forward to her to filling that position for us on a temporary basis.”

Before joining Snohomish County, Crawford was the deputy director of Seattle’s Department of Transportation, where her responsibilities included finance, human resources, information technology, risk management and more. Before Seattle, Crawford worked for 21 years in the city of Redmond as finance director and deputy director. She has an MBA with a major in finance and is a licensed CPA.

The administration will revisit hiring a permanent finance director next year, Lovick wrote.

Klein said he’s OK with handing Crawford the job on a temporary basis, but would feel more comfortable with a person whose energies are devoted full-time to the job.

The councilman is worried about the way he sees the county managing this year’s $228.5 million operating budget.

Work is under way now to craft a proposed budget for 2015, which Lovick will unveil in early fall.

The costs of responding to the Oso disaster, related legal actions, staffing shortages at the county jail and more promise to weigh on county finances in the year ahead. Klein said early estimates show that the county’s cash reserves could drop by millions, potentially threatening to hurt the county’s credit rating and drive up borrowing costs.

“Everybody knows it’s going to be bad,” he said.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Edmonds police are searching for Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, in the homicide of his roommate. If you see him, call 911. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Most Read