At last week’s meeting of Gateway’s Board of Supervisors, a thrilling 9-minute debate took place over whether to give engineering firm Tetra Tech a 3-year contract that could be canceled at any time, or a 1-year contract with an automatic 2-year option that could be canceled at any time.

Supervisor Rod Senior said that he favored a shorter deal because a human resources audit of the Gateway Services Community Development District staff is underway, and some concern was expressed by the auditor about Gateway having both a staff engineer and an engineering contractor.

Gateway Greens HOA President Ed Tinkle, who often volunteers his time and talents on GSCDD issues, called in to question whether the auditor was even qualified for the job.

“Rod [Senior] said something that scares the daylights out of me. If this guy that you’ve retained doesn’t know the difference between a staff engineer and a professional engineer and the scope and the duties and responsibilities, you got the wrong guy. You’ve got the wrong guy,” said Tinkle.

Tinkle continued, “My whole point is people that do this know the difference between a staff engineer – I worked for I don’t know how many communities throughout the mid-west where they had staff engineers and they had totally separate duties. Preparing plans and specifications, writing reports, they don’t have design CAD staff. All of that separates those two and if the guy that you’re talking to doesn’t understand that you got the wrong guy.”

We can’t be totally sure, but we believe that Tinkle thinks we’ve got the wrong guy.

In all seriousness, Tinkle makes a good point. If the board is going to allow an outsider to help shape the GSCDD staff, he’d better know what he’s doing.

We were aware that Senior did most of the leg-work when it came time to selecting the auditor to hire, so we reached out to him to find out more.

Senior explained: “There are 51 large CDDs in Florida [that are] over 1000 acres [in size], including GSD. I contacted every one of them in search of the best and most experienced HR consultants in the state to whom the District could reach out. My search included the Florida Association of Special Districts whose Executive Director recommended Mr. Joe DeCerbo. I interviewed him plus the other firms on my short list. It became quickly evident to me that he has the hands-on approach that GSD could benefit from. He is focused on the needs of Special Districts.”

Calling over 50 different people to ask for their input may seem like over-kill, but it certainly does improve the odds that you’ll find the right person for the job.

“Mr. DeCerbo specializes in personnel training, certification and organizational development. He is the District Manager for Spring Lake Improvement District in Sebring which won the FASD District of the Year award in 2012 and 2014,” said Senior.

Not bad.

What Senior is saying is that the person who will be helping shape Gateway’s staff oversees the district that won the ‘District of the Year’ award two of the past three years, and what we’re adding is that DeCerbo himself won the ‘District Manager of the Year’ award in 2012.

Tinkle’s heart was in the right place, however it appears as though we might have the right guy.

But why does the GSCDD need an HR audit?

“Job descriptions do not match actual job functions. Job titles do not reflect seniority or qualifications, and are being used as a benchmark to compare compensation with similar titles at County level which is a questionable practice. There is no succession planning or cross-training in place for key ‘role impact’ positions which potentially leaves the District exposed,” said Senior.

Typically an HR audit could cost $15,000 or more, but Senior said that DeCerbo is performing Gateway’s audit for only $5,000.

Senior described the process, saying, “Mr. DeCerbo has devoted time at GSD to interview District staff, District Management and board members. He is forming proposals of what needs to be done to clarify job functions and individual accountability. He is particularly keen to see what efficiencies can be gained by retraining and certifying staff so that GSD can be more self-sufficient and less dependent on outside contractors and professionals for its core activities.”

One of the questions Senior said he wants answered by DeCerbo is whether the Operations Manager should be a GSCDD employee instead of being contracted through Gateway’s management firm, Severn Trent.

The main question the Sun wants answered is about the ridiculous health insurance plan the staff chose for themselves. As we’ve written in the past, the insurance issue should be addressed in this audit because compensation (including benefits) will be an area that DeCerbo focuses on.

“Over the years, the District has allowed itself to become dependent on outside vendors, contractors and professionals. The District needs to evaluate whether significant costs can be saved and better results achieved by reorganizing and resourcing to be more self-sufficient,” said Senior.

Senior feels DeCerbo is the right guy to help Gateway make those determinations. Based on what we found out in the process of writing this article, we agree with Senior.

DeCerbo’s audit report and recommendations are expected to be presented in July 2015.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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