Amid the confusion that’s marked the end of Richmond’s budget process, the deputy chief administrative officer in charge of finance is being replaced, according to multiple sources.
Sharon Judkins was hired to oversee the city’s departments of finance, human resources, information technology, and procurement in March 2012. During her tenure, City Council has complained on numerous occasions about late reports and inadequate information from departments under her purview.
At a budget meeting yesterday, council was unable to finalize next year’s budget because city administrators were unable to say what the current year’s budget surplus is.
“This puts us in an untenable position,” City Council President Charles Samuels said.
“Maybe if we just sit here someone will come and get us the number eventually,” Councilwoman Reva Trammell suggested.
Council adjourned without receiving the necessary information or any hint of when it could be expected.
Judkins, a regular presence at city meetings, was absent.
Mayor Dwight Jones’ press secretary, Tammy Hawley, says “it’s not accurate” to say Judkins is no longer with the city, but that personnel changes will be announced “very soon.”
Asked Monday if Judkins was actively serving in her role as a deputy chief administrative officer, Hawley said “she is out sick today.”
While the administration has been coy about Judkins’ status, Samuels said he was told that Judkins is no longer serving as a deputy chief administrator. Other well-placed sources confirmed that, saying she is being replaced. It is unclear who will be filling the role and whether Judkins will be reassigned within the city or is leaving.
Judkins earned $170,000, making her one of the highest-paid employees in city government.
In the lead-up to the budget season, the finance department was months late in delivering the city’s comprehensive annual financial report. An external auditor found that the city lacked the necessary expertise to produce the document.
“This resulted in over a half-dozen versions being reviewed to identify and correct financial reporting errors that should have been caught and corrected prior to submission to the auditors for review,” according to the report, dated Feb. 24.
Late last year, a city auditor’s report found mismanagement plagued the rollout of an $18 million computer system intended to streamline the city’s finances.
Judkins oversaw that program, and at a December meeting of council’s audit committee, defended her work, saying the auditor’s report was “plagued with inaccuracies.”
She and her fellow administrators had plans and procedures in place for “just about everything,” she said, adding that it was rare for such large projects not to experience some issues.
City Auditor Umesh Dalal said at the time that his office encountered “significant resistance” in conducting its audit and that Judkins initially rejected all of the audit’s recommendations.
Judkins couldn’t be reached for comment. A receptionist reached in the finance department Tuesday said Judkins was out of the office.
Before taking over the city’s finances, Judkins worked as the chief administrative officer of the Santa Clara Valley Water District in San Jose, California. Before that, she worked in Richmond city government for 19 years.
Judkins would be the second deputy chief administrative officer to leave this year. In March, the city announced that Stephen Harms, the interim deputy who took over the troubled Department of Human Services in January 2013 left to “pursue other opportunities.”
In June 2013, the city parted ways with a finance director after six weeks on the job. The position had been empty since August 2011. At the time, the city’s chief administrative officer, Byron Marshall, said the new director, Dominic Ochei, hadn’t disclosed information during the hiring process. His departure followed a CBS-6 report that he’d filed for bankruptcy in 1992.
In March, Mayor Jones said in a statement that he’d instructed city officials to quickly fill key city vacancies. “This process has moved too slowly,” he said. “I remain optimistic that we will have substantial announcements in the coming weeks regarding our overall organization.”