Metro Council approves Saul Solomon as interim finance director

Metro Council on Tuesday accepted Nashville legal professional Saul Solomon to function the town’s finance director because the mayor’s workplace searches for a everlasting rent.



Kevin Cawley wearing a suit and tie: Saul Solomon


© MDHA
Saul Solomon

The 24-10 vote got here regardless of considerations from council members about Solomon’s {qualifications} for the job, his work representing an engineering agency going through scrutiny over its contract with the town and the timeliness of the appointment. 

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Although Mayor John Cooper’s workplace mentioned Solomon will fill the function on an interim foundation, Nashville’s constitution doesn’t present for an interim appointment to the function. Solomon will function the town’s finance director, overseeing its $2.65 billion finances. His appointment wanted 21 votes from the 40-member council. 

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Metro Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Jameson mentioned Metro believes it’s within the “last levels” of the search course of, which started in early July after former Finance Director Kevin Crumbo introduced in early June his intent to resign. Jameson mentioned Metro hopes to current a nominee for the everlasting function to the Metro Council in October.

Previous to his appointment, Metro Council members voiced considerations about whether or not Solomon’s in depth authorized and government expertise equates to the required finance {qualifications} for the function. Additionally they voiced worries concerning a battle of curiosity as a result of his previous authorized illustration of Collier Engineering, whose contract with Metro is below years-long investigation for its billing practices.

Council considerations raised once more

These considerations continued at Tuesday’s council assembly with members expressing frustration with the Cooper administration. 

Council member Zach Younger mentioned he would vote in favor for Solomon however solely to maintain Metro in good monetary standing for an upcoming bond issuance, a key function for the town’s finance director.

He mentioned he’s annoyed with the Cooper administration’s failure to nominate nominees in a well timed method.

“As soon as once more we’re ready till the eleventh hour to throw out a nominee” that’s closely concerned in representing a consumer in opposition to Metro, he mentioned.

“We have to rake this administration over the coals if they will be this incompetent about issues like this,” Younger mentioned.

Council member Kathleen Murphy mentioned members are tasked with being a test and stability on the sturdy mayoral administration created by Nashville’s constitution.

She mentioned council members acquired a lot of the knowledge concerning Solomon’s {qualifications} the day of Tuesday’s council assembly, one thing she referred to as “disrespectful.”

At-large Council member Bob Mendes and Council members Delishia Porterfield and Angie Henderson mentioned they might not voted in favor of the approval.

Porterfield careworn that the administration must get data to council members “in a well timed vogue.”

“We maintain being put in conditions the place we’ve got to be rushed to decide,” Porterfield mentioned.

Council member Emily Benedict mentioned the town shouldn’t be put able the place “its credit score is influenced by a scarcity of preparation.”

Benedict mentioned the administration had 90 days to organize, and Solomon was introduced because the appointee 11 days previous to the vote.

Council member Courtney Johnston and At-large Council member Zulfat Suara mentioned that they had been initially hesitant to approve Solomon, however determined to vote in favor. Council members Brett Withers and Tom Money spoke in favor of Solomon’s appointment.

Earlier within the day Tuesday, at a packed Guidelines, Confirmations and Public Elections Committee assembly, Solomon mentioned he would recuse himself from all finance division exercise involving his former shoppers, together with Collier Engineering. He additionally mentioned he would appoint a designee to serve on the Metro Procurement Requirements Board — a place normally held by the finance director — throughout his time within the function.

Solomon conceded that he has by no means served in a direct finance operate.

In describing his {qualifications} for the function, he referred to his 18 years of expertise at Bridgestone Americas, throughout which he was president of Bridgestone’s North America Business Tire Division, along with his expertise as interim government director of the Metro Growth and Housing Company and his time as a bonds lawyer.

He mentioned he feels snug that he’ll be capable of lead the division by an upcoming $700 million water income bond issuance.

Past the data gained from these experiences, “I’ve an entire workers that I will be capable of lean on for that,” Solomon mentioned.

Jameson mentioned it usually takes between three and 5 months to fill a director-level place. Jameson mentioned Solomon’s moral compliance document is “impeccable.”

Cooper’s workplace introduced Solomon’s appointment on Aug. 27, Crumbo’s final day in workplace. Jameson mentioned Tuesday the constitution doesn’t particularly require appointees to have expertise as a chief monetary officer.

The Guidelines, Confirmations and Public Elections Committee voted unanimously that Solomon met the {qualifications} for the function.

Former Nashville mayors Karl Dean and Invoice Purcell endorsed Solomon’s appointment in a letter to Metro Council members Tuesday, citing his administrative expertise as a former Metro authorized director and former interim government director of the Metro Growth and Housing Company. 

“From our expertise, and the general public document, it’s clear that Saul Solomon meets in each manner the civic, coverage and authorized necessities of this place,” Dean and Purcell acknowledged. “He has the confirmed administrative skill required, and the experiences we’ve got each shared with him affirm his understanding and popularity in public finance.”

Solomon’s finance {qualifications}

Solomon has a prolonged profession in regulation and administration in each the private and non-private sectors within the Nashville space. 

He most lately served as interim government director of MDHA and beforehand served as Metro Nashville’s director of regulation and as an assistant public defender. He’s at the moment a member of Nashville regulation agency Klein Solomon Mills, PLLC.

Throughout his time at Bridgestone Americas, Solomon was president of Bridgestone’s North America Business Tire Division and Latin American operations, vp of labor relations for Bridgestone Americas and common counsel.

The mayor’s workplace acknowledged that Solomon’s executive-level expertise at Bridgestone and MDHA fulfills the Metro Constitution’s requirement that finance director appointments have a “properly based popularity in public finance” or not less than 5 years of “distinctive efficiency” as a comptroller or the monetary head of a giant enterprise.

Mendes mentioned whereas he believes Solomon to be an especially certified lawyer and government, he’s skeptical that have interprets to the background essential to function finance director.

“It tends to water down the necessities within the constitution to say that any chief government of a enterprise unit is routinely certified to be the director of finance for the town, and I believe that is a highway — though on an interim foundation — not a highway that we must be on,” Mendes mentioned in the course of the committee assembly.

Solomon mentioned he doesn’t imagine each chief government of a enterprise unit can be certified, however he believes he was “no doubt the monetary head” in his government function at Bridgestone.

Of their letter, Purcell and Dean listed Solomon’s contributions to the administration of Nashville’s funds:

  • As Metro authorized director, Solomon administered the division’s funds and took part within the annual finances course of and bond issuances. 
  • As interim government director of MDHA, Solomon managed 350 workers and a $150 million finances in addition to Nashville’s public land holdings, along with MDHA’s cost in lieu of taxes program, bond issuances and refinancing.

In his non-public sector work, Solomon was a bond lawyer, and “managed massive staffs, contracts, union relationships, audit features, manufacturing operations, budgets, procurement, gross sales and advertising and marketing,” the letter states.

Illustration of Collier Engineering

Solomon has represented Collier Engineering in a prolonged investigation into the agency’s contract with Metro Public Works. He continued to characterize Collier Engineering throughout his time at MDHA, as allowed by an settlement between him and MDHA. 

 “I am very proud to characterize Collier Engineering,” Solomon mentioned in the course of the committee assembly, noting that the agency has labored with Metro for greater than 20 years.

One of many causes folks go to regulation college is to characterize good individuals who have gotten into hassle, he mentioned, “who may need made one mistake and have gotten very, very, very closely punished for it. So what you attempt to do is perhaps even the scales a bit of bit.”

Scrutiny of the agency started in 2018 after Metro Public Works employed the agency to work on college sidewalks, disregarding a Metro Council directive. 5 of the 22 sidewalk tasks accomplished by Collier Engineering didn’t adjust to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act.

A 2018 audit discovered that Collier Engineering hosted public works officers at a Bridgestone Enviornment suite, during which Metro workers didn’t pay for his or her tickets. A number of of the agency’s high executives billed Metro greater than $5,000 for hours accrued on a day once they had been photographed with metropolis officers at a basketball recreation. Questions additionally arose concerning 1000’s of hours billed by the corporate for “constituent providers.”

In response to those considerations, then-mayor David Briley alerted the state Comptroller for a potential investigation, as he was required to do by regulation. Collier Engineering President Chad Collier has mentioned the agency is “assured that our billings to Metro Authorities are an trustworthy account of hours labored.”

“I am probably not into cancel tradition,” Solomon mentioned. “If you happen to do one factor improper, you are not canceled perpetually. And that well-known image of them with friends within the suite, that was a mistake. That has been actually their solely mistake, in my view. So due to that … it is simply spun utterly, in my view, uncontrolled.”

Council member Angie Henderson, who has been carefully concerned with the Public Works Committee for six years and vocal in her scrutiny of Collier Engineering’s Metro contracts, mentioned that assertion was false, referring to scrutiny of the agency’s billing practices and different stories from Metro Public Works workers. 

Attain reporter Cassandra Stephenson at [email protected] or at (731) 694-7261. Observe Cassandra on Twitter at @CStephenson731.

This text initially appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Metro Council approves Saul Solomon as interim finance director

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