Three weeks into her job, City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart is already sick of signing the paper cards needed to approve over-budget spending, such as someone's raise. No cursive "Rebecca Rhynhart," no money.
"I already requested that we need to get Docusign," Rhynhart said, laughing as she estimated she gets about 20 so-called signature cards daily. After scrawling her name, they are sent back to the finance department with copies stashed away in various files.
"It's a very small example how we can be more efficient," Rhynhart said, walking through a narrow hall of an office lined with dozens of audit books and reports. She is pushing to move more city business from paper to digital.
Docusign would be a good start, she said.
Rhynhart campaigned on government transparency and modernizing the office. She promised to save the city at least $10 million each year.
This week, Rhynhart sat down for an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News to discuss how she has restructured the office and the top aides she has hired to accomplish her big goals. Here are highlights:
On making her campaign manager, Kellan White, the first deputy controller: The office's No. 2 has traditionally overseen the staff. Instead, White will be head of external affairs, including neighborhood groups, other government agencies. and labor. "He's someone I inherently trust, and he's extremely smart and hardworking, and overall a great addition to my team. The structure is also a little different in that I have a chief of staff and a first deputy controller," Rhynhart said. The nitty-gritty internal affairs of the office will go through Chief of Staff Nicole McCormac, who has been Rhynhart's deputy in other City Hall jobs.
All seven top aides report directly to Rhynhart: "That's part of my management style, which is hands-on in terms of key initiatives," she said, explaining why she's changing the first deputy role. Instead of an intermediary, "I will go straight to those people to get information and to drive what they are doing."
On creating the position of general counsel within the Controller's Office: "The list of things I want to accomplish and the things we are driving to is not small. So, with that level of change, I want to make sure we have a legal representative at the table," Rhynhart said. She hired Salena Jones, who most recently worked in the District Attorney's Office.
"The city solicitor is the legal counsel for the mayor, as well as the city controller, as well as City Council, as well as the DA, as well as the sheriff, and I think it's important to have some independent legal advice," Rhynhart said.
A new Strategy and Policy Analysis Unit will be a think tank for the city. "The way I see it is, we are at a time when the School District is projecting a significant deficit over the next five years. There's been some talk about a possible tax increase being proposed, and I think before we look at increasing any taxes, we need to be looking at any efficiencies within the city as well as possible changes to tax policy, such as abatements, so we don't need to raise taxes," Rhynhart said. The unit is headed by Rosamond Howard, who most recently worked as a global marketing manager at the Dow Chemical Co. and previously worked as an asset management analyst at JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Data visualization for the people. "One of the things I talked about a lot on the campaign was transparency…and how do we provide more information to the public in digestible format. So that people don't feel like they are wondering where their money goes. Data visualization is a very fancy way to say presenting financial information in a digestible format," Rhynhart said. "One that comes to mind right away is the city's expenditure data. Others would include soda tax revenues and School District financial conditions."
The deputy controller for investigations is also a former prosecutor within the District Attorney's Office. Terri Domsky will be leading the unit previously known as the Fraud and Special Investigations Division. "That unit will be taking a real look at issues from political corruption to worker comp abuse, sick leave, any type of misspending that is fraudulent," Rhynhart said. Domsky will also coordinate with law enforcement agencies as needed for prosecutions.