In response to Mayor Joe Ganim hiring a government compliance firm, municipal scrutineer John Marshall Lee had his own guideposts to share with the City Council Tuesday night.
I see myself as a watchdog on general-purpose governance issues including finances. With the Mayor looking outside normal channels for some “wise men from afar,” I have returned to my talks with you. I raise ten issues that Guidepost might look at and provide the taxpayer with an honest and accurate answer. A return for taxpayers … answers … some old … some new!
— Where did the last City administration find funds for the $400,000 “unbudgeted” Moutinho personal driveway when the court indicated the City was responsible? And how much were the legal costs?
— Former OPED head Kooris noted the taking of $900,000 from OPED bonded funds. They were used to repay a Port Authority debt for which OPED was not responsible. Who approved each step of the transaction? Was the use of bond funds illegal? Were funds replaced? From where? Where are full appraisals and financials for last decade?
— The City Council annually approves a Capital Budget that provides scant detail to taxpayers about extent of project, timelines, etc. They are asked for approval when bonds are to be marketed to provide funds for the budget. Why does Council have no regular report on all Capital Funds received until fully expended with project complete? Operating budget provides monthly reports. Capital can be quarterly?
— Where can you locate Mayoral vision with legislative priorities for a fiscal year? The Mayor’s annual City report does not put order into his annual budget document, nor does he review at year end when surpluses occur that taxpayers believe are the result of the exaggerated mil rate from 2016 relative to initial budget overstaffing each year.
— Why do “acting manager” positions in the City continue beyond time limits? Why are exams not researched and held? Why is the person responsible for such action, the Civil Service director, still “acting” after all these years? Why was the Civil Service process led by a commission chair who was unqualified by residence or voting according to the Charter from serving?
— Police Department claims that there is an ongoing annual personnel evaluation that serves as a base to make promotions, training assignments and other personnel decisions. Is there any evidence of this activity year in and year out, in PD files? Where does “community policing” become defined and understood by all, especially developing youth in the poorest sections of the City? The PD gets publicity for implementing cameras, body protection, new software and shot-spotter technology. When are modern policing “best practices” introduced and evaluated?
— In mid-January the Finance Department releases the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the previous Fiscal Year ending 6/30. No public gathering is called by government to study trends or news from a given year. The vendor, an accounting group, does not appear to explain or answer questions about the likely “Hits, Runs and Errors” of the closed year. The vendor is precluded from answering questions from the public by their City contract.
— Citizens can serve 200 voluntary positions on a variety of more than 25 Boards and Commissions with appointments made by the Mayor, an extenuation of the “strong Mayor” form of government. Even with a political appointee in charge of shepherding those bodies, vacancies still exist, initial orientation and training are not in evidence and evaluations are not routine.
— In-Plant Printing is a City Department that provides a variety of print materials for City departments as well as outside members of the public. The public pays revenue that is not recorded accurately like the City Clerk and Town Clerk offices. The Finance Officer is aware of a discrepancy of $800,000 that I reported two years ago between the expenses that show in the CAFR and actual Purchasing totals over a five-year period where Finance reported balance. That is a $160,000 per year discrepancy. Perhaps Guidepost would like to review the numbers?
— Oversight? Checks and balance? Internal Audit? Look at the City Department table of organization. It’s on the chart directly below the Finance Department, and it has been there for years. Hypocrisy or humor? Ask Guidepost to investigate?
Time will tell.