By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — Change may be the only constant in recent city history, and the April 19 termination of Fire Chief Bob Tompos by Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand marks the latest municipal turnover.
Tompos, a 13-year department veteran who had been named chief in 2011, was informed of the decision in a letter from Lamarand, which declared the termination “effective immediately.”
Lamarand would not elaborate on why Tompos was dismissed — by all accounts a surprise move done with little notice and no transition period — other than to say it was one of many budget-related decision’s he has had to make.
“My only comment is it was a personnel decision,” Lamarand said. “At this juncture I’m not going to tackle this.”
Lamarand said that Deputy Fire Chief Dan Reynolds will serve as interim department head.
“Every personnel change has an impact,” Lamarand said, noting that positions have not been replaced when removing a department head in this and other recent decisions.
“There’s a savings there when we get to the next fiscal year,” Lamarand said. “It’s difficult decisions we have to make to put together a process to pay back the deficit.”
Tompos was not available for comment prior to press time. Last week Tompos announced his intention to seek a position on city council during this year’s elections. The panel’s seven seats and office of mayor are all up for re-election on the November 2013 ballot.
Previously, Tompos had disagreed with city officials on matters of department staffing, the acceptance of a federal grant that could have added staff, and the closure of two of the city’s three fire stations.
Lamarand insisted that the decisions are being made for financial, not political reasons although the mayor and Fire Department have been at odds in recent years, to include firefighter support for the attempted recall of Lamarand in 2011.
The city is in the early stages of a five-year deficit elimination plan, with a June 30 deadline to submit a budget for fiscal year 2013-14 that shaves 20 percent of an estimated $5 million deficit. Lamarand said that while the economic situation has stabilized somewhat, the challenge remains to erase the shortfall.
“We’re operating within our revenue structure,” Lamarand said. “Now it’s part of paying the back deficit. We have a general plan in place.”
Tompos’s dismissal was one of several recent terminations at city hall. Director of Executive Affairs Amanda Banas was told Tuesday that her position would expire in 30 days as Lamarand trimmed his office budget in half; Senior Center Manager Scott Martin and Hassane Jamal, who headed the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, also were let go.
Last month’s announcements included the replacement of finance director Jenetta Kregel with Richard Eva Jr.
Lamarand defended many of the personnel moves, as well as the approach of looking to make substantial cuts starting at the top, as the unfortunate reality of a deficit budget.
“I don’t have the luxury of appointing ceremonial heads of departments and expecting them to pass along work loads to other people,” Lamarand said. “We expect everyone to work. It’s just changing times. It puts a lot of work load on a few people, and we as a city have to operate.
“People have to expect subtle changes. If they come in (to city hall) to pay a bill, they’ll have to stand in line or wait a turn. It’s the reality of the market.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)