Unified Government Announces Major Organizational Restructuring

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the middle of a KBI investigation underway and with his employee acquisition card transactions increasingly monitoredthe unified government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, announced “several structural changes” to its operation beginning at 5:33 p.m. on Friday of a holiday weekend.

Under the leadership of Acting County Administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee, and after hearing reports from several consultants on UG’s performance over the past few months, UG will realign several departments” as the organization is working to identify cost savings and operational efficiencies, a critical next step in closing the budget gap,” according to a new release.

“As part of UG Forward, I pledge to reinvent unified government for the next 25 years as we address many of the systemic and financial challenges facing our organization,” Harrison-Lee said in a statement. “This realignment will ensure that our leadership team works closely with department heads and staff to find ways to improve service delivery while eliminating unnecessary and often redundant operations.”

One of the changes — the resignation of Kathleen VonAchen, chief financial officer of UG – was reported earlier on Friday.

Harrison-Lee also instituted Changes to the UG Acquisition Card Program last month.

Now effective immediately and after recommendations made in July at the UG Board of Commissioners, a new Acting County Administrator was appointed to oversee administrative services.

Becky Berger, who joined UG as Treasurer and Chief Revenue Officer in January, will assume the newly created role. She will oversee 311 as well as several departments within the unified government, including human resources, the clerk’s office, budget and research, finance, and the assessor’s office.

“By bringing all internal departments under one manager, the unified government will be able to continue its work of improving human resources, finance and general operations,” the UG said in a statement announcing the reorganization.

The county’s three current deputy administrators will remain: Bridgett Cobbins, public safety; Alan Howze, health and social services; and Brett Deichler, economic and community development.

Deichler was appointed in May on an interim basis.

VonAchen cited the planned restructuring in his resignation letter, dated Tuesday and addressed to Harrison-Lee.

VonAchen worked as a municipal finance officer in Stockton, California from January 2008 to March 2011. The city filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

She said in her resignation letter that she had witnessed in Stockton “the negative impact of this organizational structure on the financial prospects of the municipality. I decided that I just couldn’t accept these changes and continue in this new role.

As part of the restructuring, UG’s purchasing department, which the consultants said had issued too many cards to employees and lacked adequate controls over such purchases, will be integrated into the finance department rather than under the responsibility of the county administrator’s office as it was before.

KCK Mayor Tyrone Garner previously told KSHB 41’s I-Team that he and other UG leaders welcomed “any independent external investigation in any allegation of a harmful nature.

The City of Kansas City, Kansas, general fund faces a budget shortfall of approximately $4 million, “which must be corrected for our fiscal health and long-term competitiveness,” according to Harrison’s announcement- Lee.

VonAchen will remain with UG’s finance department until December 14.

Aubrey L. Morgan