Franklin County Commissioner John Flannery talks about the new CFO position in the county

July 25 – A few weeks ago, Franklin County Comptroller Harold Wissinger brought to light the fact that the county added a Chief Financial Officer position to the payroll with no advertisement or opportunity for anyone to apply for the job. 

The position would include a salary of about $150,000 and the benefits that go along with that. 

A number of people have wondered if Franklin County really needs the position. We’re a fourth class county and could be the only one in the state to have a CFO position like this. 

Franklin County Commissioner John Flannery said, “Let me explain. We’re not adding a $150,000 job. We are taking the fiscal director and reclassifying her into a CFO position, which she’s going to get a 7 percent increase, which is around $9,000 a year. She already makes six figures, so she’ll be making $9,000 more a year for the added responsibilities that come with that position. Secondly, someone is being promoted to the fiscal director position and that will be a $35,000/$40,000 increase. That’s a huge increase. That’s what that position makes grade 15, on paper, if we were to hire someone off the street, she will be making exactly what that person would be making if we filled the position off the street.”

That brings up the issue of why wasn’t the position advertised? 

Flannery said, “I’m going to take responsibility for a lot of this. If Franklin County were my personal business, this is exactly what I would do. This is in the best interest of Franklin County for the future. It’s the right thing to do right now, with the implementation plans for programs, programming we have coming up with software systems, with things that we need to do. I can justify the expenditure of the increase in salaries. Thirty years ago, when I was working as a press operator, my company needed a supervisor. Do you know what they did? They picked the best press operator and promoted me to be a supervisor. Then when they needed a plant manager, we looked at the best person in house that knew how things were done there, had the integrity of the way things were done and they promoted a supervisor into a plant manager. That was me. Five years after that when they wanted a vice president of manufacturing, they picked the best person for the job that knew the plant, knew the people, knew the organization and promoted them. I believe in promoting from within. I’ve done it in my private life and my personal business businesses. If you have the right people, there’s no reason to go on the outside and look for it. That’s loyalty. We expect loyalty from our employees. We need to give them loyalty in return.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “But posting it, though, you don’t know who you’re missing. I still go back to this is not a personal business.”

Flannery said, “I agree. It’s not, but again, don’t you want to be promoted from within when you have that opportunity?”

Ryan said, “How do you know what talent is not out there? You’re a responsible county. That’s an argument.”

Flannery confirmed, “It’s a fair argument.”

The vote for the position came down to a 3-1 vote. The three commissioners voted yes and Wissinger voted no. 

If the county runs well as it is, why would we need this position? 

Flannery said, “We have some things that are coming up. First of all, our tax department is overseen by our planning department. That’s wrong. That’s not right. We need to get the structure in place correctly. So the CFO will now take over oversight of our tax department where it should be in fiscal. So that’s an added responsibility. In addition to that, we have to implement a new CAMA, which is a Computer Aided Mass Appraisal software system. That’s going to require a lot of energy and a lot of focus to do. That will be the CFOs responsibility. In addition to that we have to improve the use of our ERP system, which is our general financial software system that we need to coordinate throughout the county that we’re not really doing to perfection right now. Lastly, the CFO needs to work with the treasurer on the cashvest program. Cashvest is something that we started this year. We hired an outside firm to come in and look at our $170 million dollar budget, $50 million of it comes from the taxpayers. That means we have bank accounts sitting out there when we collect taxes with $30, $40, $50 million in it. What does that money do until we need to pay the bills? Well it sits in the bank account collecting, what? Two percent interest? We’ve contracted cashvest to come in and every day they look at all the markets, all the bank rates, all the CDs out there, all the bonds out there, and they advise us on a daily basis to switch accounts, to move money around. We started at the beginning of this year. It’s taken a toll on the staff because we have to be responsive. They’re advising us they can’t make the changes. We have to make the changes, but they’re telling us where to put the money and place it best to earn the most we can. So far this year we’ve already saved $250,000, a quarter of a million dollars, but we need someone to be on top of that program. I think we can save $1 million dollars a year by placing our funds in the appropriate place until we need to spend it. But that requires looking at when bills go out, when they come in, when we collect, how long it’s going to sit, how liquid it is, what’s long term, what’s short term, where can we go with a three month CD or six month CD? It’s a very intense program, but long term, it works really well for the county. Somebody needs to manage that program.”

When the CEO of the IT department in the county retired last year, he was making six figures – between $140,000 and $150,000. 

Flannery said, “When he left, I was involved in that decision as well. Do we replace him? Do we go outside? Shop it out? What we did was hire an outside IT firm that cost us less than $100,000 a year. No benefits. There’s another $60,000 a year savings. So I think it’s important to understand that we do make decisions like this, although this may not have seemed as transparent as it could. At the end of the day, this is going to save the county and put us in the right position to save a ton of money and become more efficient than we are.”

Ryan said, “Then you’ve got a problem here. It’s not as transparent as it should be. That’s a problem.”

“Fair enough,” Flannery said. 

Ryan said, “While you’re saying fair enough—“

“What can I talk about?” Flannery asked. “When can I talk about it? That’s part of the struggle I have with public office.” 

“That’s a great question,” Ryan noted. “But as you just said, well at the end of the day this all works. It may not be a pretty process. That’s not a good answer. The process is a problem. A lot of this stuff comes to a three nothing vote sure and all these conversations are not out in the public eye. You know what happened when Donald Trump put Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in an office and it all got awfully uncomfortable and it got very truthful very fast. I wish I saw more of that. I’d like to see more of that. When I go to these meetings, it’s all right, everybody in favor? I. And there’s no dialogue. We don’t know what happened getting to this point here.”

Flannery said, “I agree with you 100%. When you talk about salary board, salary boards happen maybe three times a year, four times a year, and it’s only a major change to the policy that doesn’t fit into our structured salary policy. There’s always extenuating circumstances that go outside of a normal policy. That’s why the salary board was created. That’s what it is for. So it’s public, and we’re not making those decisions behind closed doors. There’s another emergency salary board that came up, we’re going to have it this week, Wednesday. What I get, this is what I know. I get a sheet like this requesting a salary board with an explanation of why they want to change, what they want to happen, and when it’s going to happen. Is this public right now? No, but I have a chance to review it and if there’s something on here I disagree with or don’t like, I’m on the phone or I’m in somebody’s office. I will tell you, this one I do support for numerous reasons. I don’t even know if I can talk about this or not yet, but I can find out.”

Ryan asked, “Why don’t we see that?”

“I guess right now it’s a request?” Flannery suggested. “I don’t know. I’m not sure. But I think what you’re saying is you want to see more dialogue and discussion at the meeting. Not me doing my due diligence and having a discussion…”

“No, no, no,” Ryan said. 

“I’m not coming at you with it,” Flannery said. “I have to do my due diligence and know how I’m going to vote before I walk in there. If I don’t know how I’m going to vote before I walk in there, then I didn’t do my homework.” 

Ryan said, “Understood, but we should all be able to see some of the stuff. We should all have these things posted publicly. I want to see more and I want to hear more.”

One discussion a few years ago was moving the meetings to the evening. 

Flannery said, “Well then COVID hit which prevented moving the meetings. Well then after COVID’s over, this past year when we had a full year, it came up again. They said well, we’re going to have to take people out of the office and we’re going to have to have our people there at night. It’s going to cost more money, we’re going to have overtime, and it’s just like okay, we’re not going to deal with this right now. I’ll deal with it in January.” 

Ryan said, “And then you’ll probably hold the meetings and then you’ll see the same amount of people showing up and you’ll throw your hands up and go, well, where’s the engagement here? At least try the damn thing. I think moving it around, trying it and fulfilling the promise that you rolled out here.”

Flannery said, “Second thing I tried to do was to get the meetings live streamed and recorded. We had them both, then I lost the live stream and the whole thing came up with a closed caption. We weren’t under regulation and we could get fined. We’ll fix that in January.”

Ryan said, “I think that YouTube already puts those closed captions up there.”

Flannery said, “They do but I don’t know if they’re sufficient for whatever our responsibilities are.” 

“This comes from the borough as well,” Ryan said. “This is a bunch of BS here.” 

“I’m with you,” Flannery said. 

Ryan continued, “I get it out of Stonehill and Alan Coffman and I like both guys. That’s terrific. But if the Chambersburg School District and the mayor in Hagerstown Maryland can pull it off here. What are we? Do I get the banjo out here and I put on no shoes here?

Flannery concluded, “I have no doubt in my mind after January 1 these meetings will be recorded.”