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Last year, City Comptroller Donijo Robbins DeJonge asked for a pay cut for her elected position. She believed that the allotted $72,000 was far too much for what she felt was a part-time job and asked for the salary to be cut in half. Now Robbins DeJonge is hoping to gain support for a move to shake up the city and entirely put herself out of work.
"I want to do what's right for the city—let's professionalize this position, right now there are no credentials needed [to be Comptroller] and we need this modern day financial structure. It's a step in the right direction."
Right now, said Robbins DeJonge, the financial responsibilities are shared between the Comptroller's office, and the Chief Financial Officer who works within the City Manager's Office. Her proposal is to merge all of the accounting, budgeting and finance roles into one office that would be the new appointed, not elected, Comptroller. "I am proposing that requirements such as being a CPA and certain number of years of experience be added to this new position," she said. "I don't even qualify for what I am proposing."
Robbins DeJonge said they're still working on an old organizational chart. The Comptroller position dates back to 1916 when fraud was a serious issue and a watchdog was truly necessary she said. Times have changed and she believes it's time the city and charter change too.
"If we want to be that city of the 21st century, and we want to recruit people to come in [to] run the financial structure of the city, it's hard to get someone because they'll see they only have one part of the financial structure. They say, how come I don't have this part, this part and this part? A lot of people just aren't interested in applying."
The Comptroller is often billed as the "financial watchdog" for the city, there to oversee the taxpayer's money. But Robbins DeJonge said the position has evolved, and watchdog isn't the right description.
"It's not really a watchdog office, we watch over the checkbook. Whoever controls the checkbook in your household, that's what I'm doing."
The proposal was delivered to the City Commission members this morning, and will be discussed at the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday. It will take a 5-2 vote of the Commission to move forward. If that happens, it will go to the November ballot for a vote by the residents of the city.
Robbins DeJonge said she's floated the idea to the City Manager and others and feels that there's support for the idea. She hopes residents will see it her way as well.
"I would rather have a professional watching my money instead of a politician."
A recent transplant to western Michigan, Jon works for Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization. With history as a radio news journalist, and now working in digital media, writing for the Rapidian is a perfect blend of his interests. Jon also likes a good bourbon and creating (and eating) delicious vegan food. Along with his best friend, he runs the local vegan eating guide, Vegan Grand Rapids.