NEW BEDFORD — The city maneuvered through blizzard-like conditions earlier this year without a full-time emergency management director.

Hurricane season began without the position being filled and beyond the 4th of July the position in charge of “planning, organizing, and directing the emergency management programs for the City,” remains vacant.

It opened in December when Mark Mahoney retired on Christmas Eve. A five-month job search that included 13 candidates concluded on May 4 when Mayor Jon Mitchell submitted the appointment of Ryan DeCoste to the City Council.

On May 11, the City Council sent the appointment to the Committee on Finance, which tabled it during its June 20 meeting after discussing the item but Sandra Venzina, the city’s director of Personnel, wasn’t available to answer questions on the topic.

After a six-month long process still without an end, DeCoste pulled his name from consideration.

Through the process, the city has paid Mahoney on a monthly basis to serve as a consultant in a similar role he had prior to retirement.

The failure to find a replacement revolved around less than $10,000 that the City Council and Mayor’s office couldn’t agree upon.

Mitchell didn’t return multiple requests for comment.

The selection committee, which included Mahoney, Venzina, Fire Chief Michael Gomes and Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, recommended DeCoste at a step 6 salary or $68,650. The base salary is $59,797, which the some members of the council believed should have been the offer. 

Gomes cited DeCoste's background, which includes a degree in emergency management, working as an operational specialist for the FBI, and his current job with Noble Drilling as a compliance coordinator as reason for the step 6 start. 

“It’s an important position for the city of New Bedford and we felt that in order to attract and retain candidates that have a great deal of experience it’s important to offer a competitive wage,” Gomes said during the finance meeting.

During the Committee on Finance meeting, the council applauded DeCoste’s resume, but questioned his recommended salary.

It fell $1,350 less than the veteran he was replacing. Finance Chair Linda Morad said if DeCoste was recommended to start working at step 2, she would have considered a yes vote. She couldn’t vote yes with him starting at step 6.

Morad and Councilor-at-large Noami Carney each cited a $75,000 Unit C study that focused on adjusting the city’s non-exempt employee salaries to ensure they were competitive compared to other municipalities. The results from the study went into affect this year, they said. 

Morad said the study increased the position of emergency management director, “two steps.” Chief Gomes said during the committee meeting that in years past the emergency management department has been underfunded. 

“Less than three months after we implement the state of the art salary study we have to bring in someone higher than step 1,” Morad said.

“I do have some issues with the way this is presented on a salary standpoint,” Ward 2 Councilor Steve Martins said during the finance meeting.

A decision wasn’t reached and the council voted 7-2 to table it for more discussion. DeCoste ended all conversations by withdrawing his name.

The city may have to start from scratch or turn to the 12 other candidates.

“I think the chief told us there were quite a few applicants some from New Bedford,” Morad said.

 

 Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT