Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Help wanted: Palmer dismisses finance director

The City of Palmer is once again headed into budget season without a finance director.

The city hired Brant Mursch as finance director in October 2011. Last month, Mursch was out. The city is now seeking its third finance director in the last two years. 

City manager Doug Griffin would only say that the decision to remove Mursch involved a “personnel issue that I’m really not at liberty to talk about to any great degree.” 

Mayor DeLena Johnson hadn’t talked with Griffin at length about what happened, she said. She was out of town at the time. 

“I’ve been assured there’s no concern regarding the finances,” Johnson said. “That’s one thing I’ve been told, one thing I asked for reassurance on.”

The city made it through budget-setting last year with an acting finance director, Gina Davis. She’ll be back in that position this year, the mayor said. 

Davis may not be overjoyed to be there again, deputy mayor Richard Best said. “She knows what it took to pretty much do it on her own last year.”

Best said he’d heard the “personnel issue” explanation as well but the council has no authority to get more information. Best said he personally got along well with Mursch and that he was doing a good job for the city. 

“He was, what, 10 months into it? There was interest for him to really have his teeth sunk into things,” he said. “I was looking forward to this budget cycle.”

Whatever happened did not involve any misuse of the city’s money, Griffin said when asked. Mursch did a good job improving the city’s rate of return on investments, the city manager said. The financial report was “done to a higher standard,” he said. 

Before coming to Palmer, Mursch spent about two years as the finance director for the Bristol Bay Borough. Nobody there could say much about him; there’s been a lot of turnover down in Naknek, several staffers said. 

Before that, Mursch worked as director of finance for a nonprofit called Health Care for the Homeless in Milwaukee, Wisc. starting in August 2005, according to a brief write-up in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He’d previously served as financial operations administrator at Cameo Care, a nursing home in Milwaukee. 

Mursch did not return a call to his home this week. 

The city is recruiting for a new director through ads on its Web site and in newspapers. 

-- Zaz Hollander

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