North Las Vegas Finance Director Gerald “Al” Zochowski is “no longer employed” by the city, officials announced Wednesday.
Zochowski, the third noteworthy departure at City Hall in a little over a month, joins former City Manager Tim Hacker and ex-City Attorney Jeff Barr on a growing list of exits under new Mayor John Lee.
“Gerald Zochowski is no longer employed with the City of North Las Vegas,” interim City Manager Jeff Buchanan said in a statement. “We appreciate his service to the citizens of North Las Vegas and wish him the best in his future endeavors.
“We will be actively recruiting a new director of finance to work with us as we implement the Mayor and Council’s exciting vision for our future.”
Reached after Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Buchanan stopped short of calling the move a firing, but said “it was my decision.”
“I can only tell you what I feel comfortable telling you,” he said. “Officially, he’s no longer with the city. …I can tell you that what we want is someone who can take us in a new direction.”
North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association President Leonard Cardinale said he expects to see greater transparency emerge from the move. He said the finance director’s office has long resisted union requests to open up the city’s books, a position he thinks is about to change.
“I’ve been sending letters and emails requesting budget documents to the city for years and none have been considered,” Cardinale said. “Getting financial information from the city is extremely difficult. If they want to move the city forward they’re going to have to become transparent.
“My impression is Lee wants to get away from (a lack of transparency), start doing things the right way.”
Zochowski already was, according to former City Manager Hacker. If the former finance director was let go, he said, it shouldn’t have been over job performance.
“I always found (Zochowski) to be very honest, very hardworking,” Hacker said. “Any suggestion otherwise is absolutely inappropriate.”
City spokeswoman Juliet Casey said she couldn’t say whether Zochowski had resigned or been fired, but denied initial reports of an internal investigation into “major accounting errors” spotted under his tenure.
“There is no internal or criminal investigation,” Casey said. “I don’t know who the source is for that information, but it’s no one at City Hall. Same with the ‘accounting errors,’ that’s not confirmed.”
Casey said Zochowski had been on administrative leave for the past few weeks, but couldn’t elaborate on the circumstances surrounding his exit.
Meanwhile, the hunt to find Zochowski’s long-term replacement is already underway, with longtime assistant to the City Manager Tim Colbert set to take over in the interim.
“I know there is ongoing recruitment going on, looking mostly at local talent,” Casey said of the city’s search for a new finance chief.
Zochowski, a former finance director in Village of Lake Zurich, Ill., was named to the post in January 2012.
He did not return requests for comment.
A copy of Zochowski’s employment offer letter obtained by the Review-Journal makes no specific mention of a city-offered severance package. Casey declined to comment on whether the former finance head can expect to receive separation pay.
New interim finance director Colbert, who stands to earn $125,000 a year in his new position, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Contact reporter James DeHaven at 702-477-3839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.