Special Section: San Bernardino
SAN BERNARDINO - Finance Director Jason Simpson has resigned, leaving the city without its top budget officer shortly after the interim city manager took another job.
Simpson and Acting City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller were credited with finding many of the problems that led to the city's bankruptcy filing and have led its high-pressure budget cuts and reorganization attempts in bankruptcy court.
To many, the two seemed indispensable.
"If Jason leaves, there won't really be anybody left," said Councilwoman Virginia Marquez. "In my eyes, they were the perfect team, the perfect partnership to first and foremost identify the financial issues and second help get us through them."
Mayor Pat Morris said he learned of the departure Tuesday and is working on a plan to keep the finances in order in a city that he said is still regaining the trust of its residents and employees.
"I understand he's taken another job," Morris said. "I learned about that today, so I'm working on it."
Simpson was reportedly out sick Tuesday, and details such as his new job and his last day in San Bernardino were not available.
Travis-Miller and a spokeswoman for the City Manager's Office did not return calls, but City Attorney James F. Penman said Simpson had been expected to leave soon and plans were in place to fill the position quickly.
"Certainly, it's never helpful to lose experienced people," Penman said. "At the same time, the interim city manager, Ms. Travis-Miller, is confident that the replacement that she brings in will be able to pick up the ball and move forward without any significant delay or disruption."
In a meeting Tuesday morning, Travis-Miller said four candidates were already being considered for the position and she expected to recommend one of them for the City Council's approval at one of the next two council meetings, according to Penman.
Those meetings are scheduled for Monday and Feb. 19, with the latter being Travis-Miller's last day on the job.
Any of three recently hired finance workers were qualified to be director, he said.
Penman said the city partnered with Urban Futures and other consultants when bankruptcy discussions first began, partly to minimize the harm of an expected employee exodus.
"We contracted with these companies because we wanted some continuity,and we wanted people who had knowledge, people familiar with our city's finances who would be able to hit the ground running," he said.
"When you get into a situation like the one we're in, you know you're going to have a lot of your professionals leave. Prudence dictates that you immediately start bringing in people and start forming professional relationships."
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