City departments reviewed for restructuring

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WESTBROOK — With the new fiscal year set to begin July 1, City Administrator Jerre Bryant is working to fill director vacancies in the human resources department and community services department. 

Human Resources Director Jennifer Ogden is on medical leave though the end of the month and will not be returning. Bryant said he cannot elaborate on that situation because of the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act, which protects the disclosure of private medical records and personal health information.

The makeup of the human resources department, which Bryant is leading in the interim, will be restructured in the new fiscal year. Ogden’s position will be replaced with an assistant city manager/human resources director, who would split time between the two tasks. Bryant has previously said the impetus of the restructuring was the school district pulling out of the agreement it had with the city to handle its human resources duties.

“It is technically a layoff because the position won’t exist starting July 1,” Bryant said.

Bryant said last week that he is still working on drafting a job description for the new position. Over the last few years, the city has had an assistant city administrator/economic development director. Former Police Chief Bill Baker  served in that capacity from 2012 until May 2016 when he was replaced on an interim basis by John Wipfler, who was with the city for 18 months until September 2017.

The city decided to modify the position to have a greater focus on economic development and in October Daniel Stevenson was hired from his economic development position in the city of Biddeford to focus on economic and community development in Westbrook on a full-time basis.

“I am hoping to have someone in that position in the month of July,” Bryant said.

As he works to draft the job description for the new city administrator/human resources director, he is also working on filling the void at the community services department but “at this point we have initiated nothing,” he said June 7. Rather than advertise the vacancy, Bryant has instead decided to review the makeup of the department to see if it needs restructuring.

Former Community Services Director Maria Huntress officially left the position April 13 after months of administrative leave. Deputy Director Greg Post has served as interim director since Huntress left in October.

Bryant said he cannot speak to why Huntress were placed on administrative leave. There is no mention of putting employees on administrative leave in the city’s charter or code of ordinances, but in general employees on administrative leave retain their pay and benefits while out of the workplace. Bryant said both Ogden’s and Huntress’ leaves were “non-disciplinary.”

Huntress was hired as the city’s first community services director in 2010 when the city’s recreational department moved to the former Wescott Middle School, which has been transformed into the Westbrook Community Center. 

Bryant said “when that level of position” becomes vacant, the city looks to see if the departmental structure still makes sense.

Bryant said Post has done a good job filling the void, but the structure of the department still warrants a discussion.

“Is the structure working? Do we want to continue as we’ve done the last eight years or do we want to revisit this and tweak some things or so something in a better way,” Bryant said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

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