Citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee systematically reviews department expenditures looking for clues in how taxpayer money is spent. Monday night he addressed the City Council about the city’s Print Shop. Hmmm, if only they could print money. From Lee.
RED BOOTS again!!! You have seen me in past years at many City Council meetings. If you were asked to objectively comment on my talks you might observe I read, review, and reflect on City financial reports. Then I ask questions. Sometimes I compare and contrast words and dollar descriptions of events. And I usually ask more questions. That is what is involved in my learning. That is what I have encouraged you to do because I see myself as a “truth seeker for my neighbors” and a reporter of real “truths” I encounter. I consider most people who work for the City as “my neighbors.” They are basically good people, even if they are not always well assigned, trained, or led in their duties.
I have a new story for you tonight. It may not be new to you if you have observed City Hall procedures closely over the years. But you may not be in the habit of comparing City procedures to Department Mission and looking at fiscal results that may harm taxpayers, as I have been. How many of you are aware the City operates a Print Shop with a budget of approximately $750,000 annually? Please raise your hands. (Pause) Whether you have raised your hand or not, annual budget books show the Print Shop employs 6-7 people with this Mission:
To provide all printing needs including typesetting, printing, binding, graphic art and desktop design for all City departments.
After reviewing annual budget adoptions and comparing them to “actual” of completed budgets, Finance shows Print Shop budgets are balanced most years. That should satisfy most “watchdogs” but I sought to “verify” this “balance” status when hearing curious reports:
– More than one story from trusted parties indicated that Print Shop (under auspices of Chief Administrative Officer and Finance Departments in City Hall hierarchy) handled printing assignments for individuals or groups that were outside of City Departments. How could that be, I wondered?
– If printing were done for a fee, the Print Shop has always indicated under “Revenue Summary” that there is no revenue, that the Revenue category is “Not Applicable.” Is this true or false, I wondered? If money is exchanged, where does it go? How does it fail to show, in what I understand, are carefully collected records? Why does it show no revenue other than that supplied by taxpayers if some people are paying for Print Shop services?
– If “outside assignments” are being done for “free,” what is the cost of such work that taxpayers are supporting without knowing?
– So I looked at more than five years of City purchasing records for the Print Shop (1030) and found that Operational Expenses and Special Services actual expenses for the Print Shop exceed the “adopted” budgets for those two items by $829,000 from 2011 to 2015. (We await the Final Monthly Report for June 2016, only available after all adjustments and receipt of the 2016 CAFR according to Kenneth Flatto to see what happened in the first full year of Ganim2.)
If the Purchasing Order records are correct, then budgets have not been in balance as has been reported for some time. Why are City fiscal records in conflict? Why should taxpayers be paying, on average $165,000 more, for Print Shop work than is showing in any budget record? If the Shop receives funds from sources and does not report, what is that about? Are certain people or organizations getting privileged service at the expense of the general taxpayer? Are persons pocketing funds secretly?
Lots of questions arise. Who will help pursue answers? When objective and fact-based questions, based on public documents, all of which are available in the City Clerk’s office raise important issues, who will be a watchdog and assist in getting to the bottom of the questions? Can we have a conversation at the Budget and Appropriations meeting? Time will tell.