Bethel CFO resigns amid frantic staff turnover in city finance department


The City of Bethel’s finance department has lost 14 employees in as many months, with the most recent loss being former CFO Christine Blake, who left on May 22. (Greg Kim / KYUK)

The City of Bethel’s finance department has a turnover problem that has worsened. The chief financial officer, Christine Blake, decided to resign prematurely, citing a “chaotic and unprofessional environment”. It marks at least the 14th employee to leave Bethel’s finance department in as many months.

Blake’s last day was May 22, after she started working for the city in March 2019. She initially gave the city one month’s notice but decided to leave two weeks earlier, claiming in an e -mail to the city manager that “the chaotic and unprofessional environment in the city weighed on my well-being. In the same email, she expressed concern about the city’s lack of preparation for her departure and warned against leaving more staff.

When asked what she meant about the chaotic and unprofessional environment, she replied to KYUK, saying that the fact that someone in town forwarded her email with those comments was a prime example of the chaos and unprofessional she was referring to.

She also urged the city council to stop micromanaging her department. She said, “For example, a line-by-line review of the budget is not necessary; your Administration / Finance team did the job. She also thanked her finance staff and former interim city manager Bill Howell for their support over the past year.

Current city manager Vincenzo “Vinny” Corazza took office less than two months ago and said the COVID-19 pandemic has made the city’s work environment restless. But he said he could only guess what Blake was referring to in his complaints.

“You would have to ask him for those details, but I guess that’s due to the turnover,” Corazza said.

Blake said in his manager’s latest report that in the past 13 months the finance department has lost at least 13 employees. Blake was the 14th. Board member Cecilia “Cece” Franko, who is a member of the Finance Committee, said the revenue issues have been around much longer than Blake was.

Corazza said he does not yet know what is behind the finance department’s creeping turnover. He said he plans to take the head of the department until he gets to the bottom of it.

“Talk to the staff, find out what problems they may be having, how we can right the ship, how we can stabilize it,” Corazza said. “Because in the future, we cannot have this turnover. “

He believes that at least part of the turnover problems are due to low wages. Corazza said he had advised city council to increase finance department salaries even though the city’s overall revenues are declining due to COVID-19.

Corazza said he is also considering increasing the salaries of all department heads. He said that because the department heads are salaried, while other city employees are paid by the hour, some employees earn more money than the department manager because of overtime.

“She was earning her regular salary plus overtime,” Corazza said. “So that didn’t really motivate him financially to take that leap. It would be a pay cut. “

Blake’s departure comes in the middle of city council meetings to develop next year’s budget. Council member Mark Springer is confident the city will be able to pass the budget on time, even without a CFO.

“We want to get one as soon as possible, but not having one doesn’t impact our deliberations,” Springer said.

For now, Springer and Mayor Perry Barr have indicated that the budget is about $ 600,000 in the red, but discussions are underway to see if the city can achieve a balanced budget. The city has until June 15 to pass a final version.


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