Novi’s CFO works full-time in 2 cities

Carl Johnson Jr. works two jobs.

He managed the finances of the City of Novi for nearly two years. And for about four months he’s been managing Oak Parkat the same time, for a combined salary greater than $200,000.

The layout is unusual. How is it? By working long hours, Johnson said by phone.

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“I work 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. five nights a week,” Johnson said, adding, “There’s no history.”

His bosses also say the arrangement doesn’t break any contracts or rules. They say they knew the situation in advance and had accepted it.

“I’m 110% comfortable with our arrangement,” said Oak Park City manager Erik Tungate, who added of Johnson, “His level of expertise is unparalleled.”

If anyone could handle this, it might be Johnson, who knows municipal government finances very well. Prior to working at Novi, he was a partner at accounting firm Plante Moran, where he founded a division for government accounting, Tungate said.

After leaving Plante Moran, he first joined Novi as full-time finance director/treasurer in January 2014. The city agreed to pay him an annual salary of $115,000, plus $4,800 in car allowance , according to a copy of the contract.

Then more than a year later, in July, Oak Park hired Johnson for his second role as interim chief financial officer. That job was also full-time, with a salary of $90,000, and it came with a 90-day probationary period that he recently exceeded. To meet schedules, he sends Tungate a schedule in advance, which may vary. (A copy of the contract was published by a local news site, The Novi Information Network.)

Regardless of the hours, Johnson has achieved results in both roles, according to his bosses. Novi’s “rainy day” fund is at its highest level in years, while its bond rating was raised to AAA last week, deputy city manager Victor Cardenas said. And Tungate said Oak Park’s budget hasn’t been this good in 15 years.

“It’s something that’s in his nature,” Cardenas said of Johnson’s work ethic. “He’s been able to perform at a high level for several years now.”

Qualified fund managers are hard to find in Michigan these days. People with similar skills tend to pursue more lucrative careers. The recent recession has also hurt the appeal of the profession, Cardenas said.

“We had no choice between a large swimming pool,” he added.

Tungate, along with Oak Park, agreed.
“If I had a pot of good qualified exceptional people to choose from, would I choose this arrangement? Probably not,” he said. “At the same time, Carl is a very, very qualified person and one of best municipal finance specialists.”

Contact Daniel Bethencourt: [email protected] or 313-223-4531. Follow us on Twitter at @_dbethencourt.

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