Savannah’s revenue director resigns after city manager says he wants new leadership

Landolt cites personal reasons but says manager's push for leadership change left her disappointed

Savannah’s Revenue Director Cindy Landolt speaks to residents the city’s utility billing issues during a meeting in February. (Eric Curl/Savannah Morning News)

Savannah’s revenue director, Cindy Landolt, resigned last week after almost 22 years with the city.

 

Landolt’s resignation was submitted May 12 after City Manager Rob Hernandez had determined the department needed new leadership, said city spokeswoman Michelle Gavin. Citing Landolt’s departure as a personnel matter, Gavin declined to say what specific issues led Hernandez to come to that conclusion after he become city manager in October.

Hernandez is in the process of developing a strategic plan he says will guide city spending for 2018 and beyond, but Gavin said Landolt’s departure will not hinder that process.

“Part of the plan is making sure the right people are in the right positions,” Gavin said.

In her resignation letter, Landolt said she was leaving due to personal reasons.

But Landolt said in a statement on Friday that she is disappointed with the city manager’s decision to seek new leadership, which she felt was unjustified. She said she hopes the strategic plan and the development of next year’s budget will provide the resources necessary for all departments to achieve the service levels desired by residents, visitors and employees.

A review by the Savannah Morning News found no records of disciplinary actions against Landolt, who started working for the city as a revenue investigator in July 1995.

The city is now preparing to solicit proposals to conduct a national search for her replacement, which should begin by July, Gavin said. In the meantime, the city’s Public Works and Water Resources operations director, Heath Lloyd, is serving as interim director.

“He led an organization of more than 100 employees and the city manager felt him more than qualified,” Gavin said.

Landolt’s departure comes as the city continues to recover from utility billing and payment delays caused by problems her department had implementing new software last year.

The total amount of utility payments owed to the city was about $15.8 million as of March, down from a peak last year of almost $22.5 million in December, according to a recent staff report. In March 2015, the amount owed to the city for utility service was about $7 million. Next month, the city is expected to resume issuing late fines and cutting off service for nonpayment after suspending those enforcement efforts in response to the billing issues.

The revenue department recently began offering customers the long-sought ability to pay utility bills online, which staff had wanted to get in place before resuming late-payment collection efforts.

The recovery of the delayed utility payments is expected to continue uninterrupted, Gavin said.

“The staff is still in place,” she said. “A change of one position will not impact the overall processes of the city.”

Landolt recently raised questions about the revenue department’s enforcement capabilities after a resident emailed city officials about some unlicensed businesses being advertised online by a registered sex offender.

In emails to Marty Johnston, deputy assistant to the city manager, and city spokeswoman Saja Aures on April 24, Landolt said there were no business license registered at the individual’s registered address, but she was unsure how to proceed.

“With no enforcement personnel, it makes things a bit challenging,” Landolt said.

In a subsequent interview, Johnston said that online businesses sometimes pose a challenge, but dismissed any concerns that the department was unable to enforce its business licensing requirements.

While budgeted positions for the revenue department dropped to 19 this year after the department’s two revenue investigators were transferred to the Savannah-Chatham police department, Johnston said the employees focused on alcohol licenses and the transfer did not impact the city’s business license division.

During her three years as a revenue investigator, Landolt was responsible for conducting telephone and in-person interviews relative to the investigation of delinquent accounts, in addition to enforcing all applicable city ordinances, according to resumes in her personnel file.

Landolt’s resignation comes after the sudden retirement in September of her husband, former Savannah Fire Marshal Craig Landolt after more than 21 years with the city department. In a performance review earlier that year, he said his office failed to get adequate support. He was later hired as an inspector for the state Fire Marshal’s office.

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