Warren mayor restructures her office staff – Macomb Daily

Kristina Lodovisi was appointed Chief of Staff for Warren Mayor Lori Stone. (CITY OF WARREN PHOTO)

For the first time, Warren has a chief of staff in the mayor’s office.

Warren Mayor Lori Stone announced in January that she appointed Kristina Lodovisi to the position. According to information obtained from the city’s human resources department through the Freedom of Information Act, Lodovisi’s annual salary is $90,000.

No chief of staff position exists in the current budget. Two other positions in Mayor Stone’s office – community outreach director Rhonda Hawe, who makes $75,000 a year and administrator coordinator Judith Smith who has a salary of $53,500– are also not part of the current budget approved by the City Council last year.

The current fiscal budget does list an executive administrator at $98,823; administrative assistant at $85.376; neighborhood services coordinator at $66,346: administrative technician at $48,635; and a clerical technician at $47,967 in addition to a $35,000 allotment for a temporary co-op employees.

Stone currently has two temporary clerical workers in her office.

Stone said she never considered appointing Lodovisi to one of the existing positions and requesting the title change during upcoming hearings for the new city fiscal budget because she believes titles are important and, in the case of Lodovisi, empowering.

“The Chief Of Staff title for me is an advisor and policy strategist and fills a lot more roles for me than someone who carries out the directives of the executive,” said Stone. “For me, it is about having a sounding board and someone who can provide their unfettered insights.”

The way the office structure was laid out previously seemed “too hierarchical,” Stone added.

Four years ago, Warren City Council took then-mayor James Fouts to court because he promoted Amanda Mika to a position for which the Council said it did not approve funding. A Macomb County Circuit Court judge ruled that Mika, who was Executive Administrator in the mayor’s office, could keep the higher $98,823 annual salary, but not the title Fouts had given her.

The current City Council did not question any of the appointments made by Stone last month and Stone says she didn’t think about the possibility that she might be drawn into litigation when she announced her chief of staff appointment in January.

Council President Angela Rogensues admits the situation with Lodovisi is similar to the one that led to litigation with the previous mayor, but that the City Council has a different relationship with Stone than it had with Fouts.

“I think there is a level of trust with this mayor that we did not have with the previous mayor,” Rogensues said. “Lori Stone is one of the most transparent people I know.”

City Controller Richard Fox said it is the prerogative of any mayor to take the overall budget for that department and use it as they see fit.

“It is not a line-item budget,” Fox said.

At any time, Fox said, a mayor could create new positions or adjust existing salary allotments to give one person less and one person more and still stay within the approved budget constraints for the department overall.

Fox agrees the situation with Mika mirrors that of Lodovisi, but said the litigation four years ago was just one piece of a larger budget impasse between City Council and Fouts that wound up in court.

“The two sides were locked in a stalemate,” Fox said. “There were several points where the two sides could not come to an agreement.”

Hearings for the new fiscal budget will be starting soon at which time Stone said she plans to present her current office structure with revised budget recommendations.

“My understanding is that at some point, every administrator has reorganized,” Stone said.  “I want to make sure my staff reflects my values and priorities and that is the approach I took with building my staff.

“I was thoughtful in my selections and clearly the Council did not have any objections.”

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