News

Finance director resigns

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

The final lines of Mayor Bob Young's administration were written Jan. 3 when Finance Director John Weidenfeller handed in his resignation.

Weidenfeller had actually submitted his notice Dec. 19, but both he and Young agreed to keep it quiet until Neil Johnson took over as Bonney Lake mayor.

“It was widely rumored one department head would be leaving,” Young said. “We all figured which one it was. I agreed to keep it quiet and follow John's wishes.”

Johnson said he had no idea he would begin the New Year without a finance director, but said he thought this would allow “Bonney Lake to get a fresh start.” He said an interim director had been found.

“We will present the interim person to the council for approval,” Johnson said. “We'll try to have a new director in place by March.”

Weidenfeller had been a polarizing figure in the city and was criticized by council members and city staff during the final years of Young's administration for fiscal practices with department heads and personnel actions.

Clashes between the administrative services coordinator Don Morrison and Weidenfeller came to the surface after Young's loss in September's primary election.

Morrison had disagreed with Weidenfeller's personnel decisions and, in November, was suspended three days by Young for insubordination. Morrison had warned a potential human resources candidate through an unsigned e-mail message to be cautious about coming to work for the city.

In the e-mail, Morrison described Weidenfeller as having no professional human resources experience and running the city with an “iron fist.”

Young hired Weidenfeller in 2000 upon the recommendation of Dave Weitzel, the city administrator at the time.

“John was as sharp a finance director as anyone could find,” Young said. “I think it was the city's loss they didn't want him to stay on, but I do understand the political ramifications.”

According to Young, Weidenfeller acted as his chief of staff beginning about 2003, shortly after the council forced Weitzel out by cutting his salary from the budget.

“He stepped in and helped in all areas of the city,” Young said. “He got caught in the cross fire, but he was doing what I asked.”

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said it presented problems that Young and Weidenfeller did not inform Johnson of the impending resignation.

“Anytime you take a department head away you need a back up plan,” Swatman said. “Obviously the mayor did not want to give us a heads up, which is not very nice but not surprising considering the last eight years.”

Swatman, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, said there is considerable work to be done on the budget to “match the new mayor's priorities.”

Weidenfeller said he accepted a position as business and financial manger of the King County International Airport.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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