City Makes Some Hires Amidst Budget Crisis

As the budget crisis has heightened, the city has been withholding vendor payments and delaying paying tax returns to try to conserve cash. Earlier this week, 12 city workers lost their jobs.

But still, some staffers have been added to the payroll in recent weeks. Since July 1, the city has hired seven people, with all but one making over $75,000. One name in particular caught our eye – Suzanne Biemiller, who was hired to a job in the Finance Department on July 6 with an annual salary of $122,600.

When we called the Finance Department to find out what was going on, we got a call back from the mayor’s Chief of Staff Clay Armbrister, who said that Biemiller was previously in a grant funded position at the Office of Sustainability and was hired by the city when that money ran out.

“She was held over to help with the transition with the sustainability office,” said Armbrister. “There was an exempt position [in Finance.] We put her there as a matter of convenience.”

Asked if he thought this hire looked bad, given the city’s tough economic position, Armbrister noted that Biemiller -- who previously worked for the Chestnut Hill Business Association and Pew Charitable Trusts -- was hired before the city announced plans to withhold vendor payments.

“We do still do have to run the government and make some tough choices about personnel,” Armbrister said.

Bielmiller’s salary is higher than that of the new Director of Sustainability, who makes $95,000, less a five percent pay cut.

If the mayor is forced to implement the Plan C budget, Armbrister said the city funding for Sustainability would go away, although he noted that the office may continue using grant funding. He wouldn’t say what would happen with Biemiller’s job.