Indian Rocks Beach hires away Dunedin's finance director

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — After months of controversy over the job performance of its former city treasurer, the City Commission enthusiastically hired a replacement Monday.

"It seems like we really lucked out. We needed a finance director who is able to hit the ground running, who could deal with almost anything unexpected, who is able to answer our questions and act professionally. We found that man," said Mayor R.B. Johnson.

Sandy Sanders, who currently serves as the finance director for Dunedin, will start his new job in Indian Rocks Beach on Jan. 21.

He gave notice to Dunedin City Manager Rob DiSpirito on Wednesday.

"We were really excited about the opportunity to get such a qualified individual," said Commissioner Bert Valery.

Sanders will take a pay cut to come to Indian Rocks Beach. He will be making $80,000 and earned $99,000 in Dunedin.

He decided to leave that post largely because, he said, his city manager wants to replace him with a finance director he had worked with previously in Ohio.

Sanders said it was a "concern" to him that Indian Rocks Beach is in the process of searching for a new city manager, but it was not a deal-breaker.

"It would have been more comfortable to know who I would be reporting to," Sanders said Friday, adding that he was impressed with the City Commission's decisions to put the city on a sounder financial footing.

"That had a lot to do with my decision," Sanders said.

He said he will be coming into a "roll-up-your-sleeve situation" and plans to work closely with the city's auditor to get the finances in good order before beginning budget planning for next year.

Under the current city charter, Sanders will be directly responsible to the City Commission as a charter officer, as are the city manager and the city clerk.

That may change, however, if voters in March approve a charter change that would make the treasurer position reportable to the city manager.

Sanders replaces former city Treasurer and Finance Director Marty Schless, who was dismissed in October for alleged repeated mistakes that commissioners said contributed to the city's financial problems.

During budget discussions last summer, the city discovered its general fund reserves were virtually depleted. Continuing red ink in its sewer and garbage funds forced a significant increase utility fees and a 20 percent hike in property taxes.

Then because of erroneous advice from Schless, an embarrassed commission was forced to re-do its vote several times on the city budget and property tax rate.

Sanders was hired as Dunedin finance director in 2004. Previously, he served as assistant finance director for the Hernando County Clerk of the Circuit Court (2000 to 2004), assistant controller for the University of South Florida (1996 to 2000), and was controller for a number of companies from 1984 to 1996. He also was manager of planning and financial reporting for Walter Industries from 1971 to 1984.

Sanders, 68, is a Florida certified public accountant and holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting.

He lives in Seminole.

Indian Rocks Beach hires away Dunedin's finance director 01/03/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 3, 2009 3:30am]

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