SALISBURY – A vacancy in the county’s finance department led to a lengthy discussion between members of the legislative and executive branches this week.
In a work session on Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council met with Director of Administration Wayne Strausburg and Assistant Director of Administration Weston Young to discuss an unfilled deputy director position within the finance department.
According to the county code, “The Director of Finance shall have a deputy, who shall perform such duties as said Director shall require and for whose official conduct said Director shall be responsible and who, in the absence of the Director, shall act in his place.”
However, officials acknowledged this week that the position has remained vacant since the retirement of former Deputy Director John Ellis.
Strausburg told the council on Tuesday that it was no question the position needed to be filled, but added the position had not yet been advertised.
“We think that we may want to fill that internally,” he said. “Let me be candid. If you are going to advertise for that level position, you aren’t going to find a whole lot of people who want to get into the situation that we have.”
According to the county’s charter, council confirmation is required for the appointment of department heads, as well as the initial appointment of deputy directors.
The council contends the charter requires the county executive to formally submit appointments to the council and receive council approval. However, both branches of government have publicly disagreed with each other’s interpretation of the charter.
This week, Councilman John Cannon encouraged the executive’s office to quickly fill the position. Strausburg, however, said the code did not set a timeline.
“The interesting thing is the county code is silent on the timing of that,” he said, “but I do understand it is required by the county code.”
Cannon told Strausburg the finance department currently had no leadership.
County Executive Bob Culver announced Michele Ennis the new finance director last May, but her appointment was rejected by the council last June. She continues to serve in that position.
“As it is right now, technically the finance department has no administration whatsoever,” he said. “That’s not a very safe place for us to be.”
This week’s discussion follows months of back-and-forth disagreements between the two branches surrounding appointments to county leadership positions.
Just last month, for example, the council tabled a resolution confirming the appointment of a new human resources director, arguing the council could not appoint the nominee to the position without a formal submission from County Executive Bob Culver.