Mayor wants restructuring plan approved despite resistance

Concedes changes to proposal are inevitable to please majority on council

MANDEVILLE — Mayor Clay Madden’s embattled restructuring plan will likely not survive a City Council vote in its current form, but the new mayor remains adamant that significant changes are needed at City Hall, some of which he says have already been implemented in an ad-hoc manner but still need to be formalized in the name of transparency.

However, critics of his proposal, including some on the council, have taken issue with one item in particular: the mayor’s call to create a new “Director of Administration” to address problems cited in a recent efficiency study.

Former longtime city council member Trilby Lenfant, who is filling the mayor’s executive assistant post on an interim basis, has taken on duties that were never considered part of the executive assistant’s job in previous administrations, Madden said.

This was necessary, he claims, to address a lack of project management and coordination among departments, problems that were later cited as “gaps” in organizational structure by the 2021 Mandeville Efficiency Study.

Conducted in late 2020, the study found that program and contract management responsibilities were being handled on an “ad-hoc basis” or “not performed at all.”

Madden says his restructuring proposal would merely formalize the actual role Lenfant is already fulfilling, giving her a more accurate job title and description. The mayor’s proposal would also include a boost in pay.

“I just always thought that position (executive assistant) could be doing more than just answering phones and doing the mayor’s schedule,” said Madden.

He said now his concern is that by having Lenfant continue to perform a much-expanded role beyond the official job description creates the appearance of impropriety. “I think the way I went about it (with a director of administration title) was the more transparent way because I’m saying this is what we really want to do.”

Madden did indicate, however, that the exact title of the new position was not all that important to him. “I sometimes think if we had just called it ‘operations manager’ would that have helped.”

“I did not think ever that we needed to bring in a new position that would be a boss of other directors. I just wanted an operations person that has a skillset higher than a person that answers phones,” he emphasized.

Madden said he took into consideration how other cities in our region are structured. Covington, he said, has a “chief administrative officer” (CAO) while Slidell has two such positions. “I never wanted it to be a CAO, because that implies deputy mayor… which is higher than the other directors.”

Hammond has a director of administration. “I liked what Hammond did, because it is under the direction of the mayor and not anyone else’s boss.”

And according to Madden, in 1987 the Mandeville City Council actually voted for an organization chart that included a director of administration. Each year, the council approves a new organization chart as part of its budgeting process.

For whatever the reason, the post was never filled and ceased to exist the next year with a new budget.

Madden’s restructuring plan, Ordinance No. 21-08, which was hotly debated at the April 8th council meeting before being deferred to April 22nd for a vote, has three basic parts.

First, the mayor wants to create a “Director of Administration” that will handle day-to-day operations and programs management, including coordination between the various departments. Essentially, this post would be an extension of the mayor, reporting directly to the chief executive yet not having authority over personnel, just projects.

Second, he wants to reduce the existing executive assistant post — currently held by Lenfant — to a role similar to a clerk or secretary, in both pay and responsibilities. Lenfant would be reassigned to the new director of administration position.

Finally, he wants to create a “Grants and Contracts Administrator” to do exactly what the name suggests. Madden told the Mandeville Daily this position should “more than pay for itself” as new revenue would be generated for the city. This part of the proposal isn’t meeting much resistance from the council.

The City Council could choose to amend Madden’s ordinance before the April 22nd vote, but the mayor would have to agree to those changes, else the ordinance would die, forcing the mayor to start the process all over.

Madden said he is pleased with the changes that are happening at City Hall so far, especially with morale, and he wants to keep the momentum. “I decided that because I knew that morale was low all over… I wanted to have a one-on-one meeting with every employee. I want to know every employee’s first name.”

Madden said he is almost finished with the one-on-one interviews and has learned a lot from the process. “The feedback that I’ve gotten from employees is that morale has gotten a lot better.”

Next Meeting : The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 22nd, at 6 p.m. at the Paul Spitzfaden Community Center located at 3090 E. Causeway Approach. The statewide mask mandate and social distancing will be observed. Read the agenda published by the City of Mandeville.

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