Where’s the legislative branch oversight? It’s a question raised often by government waste scrutineer John Marshall Lee who addressed the City Council Monday night.
This year has been historic and remarkable when you consider the way we Americans self-govern. 2019 may prove even more so. And 12 months from now it is likely that some seats will change hands on this Council.
I use the word “oversight” frequently in my talks with you. It is because “checks and balance” were included in our City Charter. Although simple, oversight of the Executive body, the Mayor’s Office, is part of your necessary work. It goes along with representing the interests and priorities of your constituents who are your neighbors, and also leads you to review and sometimes create legislation.
Six months ago on June 16, 2018 you heard about Linda Lee, a property owner and taxpaying resident of the East End whose registered, plated, insured and tax paid Ford van was stickered one day, June 5, and towed the following day. After 30 days it was presumed to have been “crushed.” But that night Ms. Lee met Acting Chief Perez who promised all of us that he would check into it the next day. Did not happen and a claim turndown by the City Attorney office was received. Four months later the Chief did review all the facts, but no word to Ms. Lee. Then an attorney appeared offering to help Ms. Lee. City Attorney reversed their position and provided a check on December 4, to counsel. Ms. Lee is awaiting delivery of an unspecified amount, net of attorney fees tomorrow.
My lengthy advocacy to your ears and those of Chief Perez was insufficient to produce such reparation without a legal expense paid from taxpayer funds. And I cannot tell you which department is bearing the hit to their budget. The failure of the towing company to provide a 30-day letter to the owner per State law, a necessary part of the process subject to Police oversight, was ignored. Think about it. If it had been you who were harmed, was this a just outcome? What can you do when you hear about City actions that appear unfair or unjust?
The Budget and Appropriations Committee did not meet last week. Perhaps they were reading about the sale of scrap metal by City employees to a Bridgeport firm, said to be in excess of $30,000 according to the firm’s records but amounting to $5,000 or less when reviewed by Public Facility boss John Ricci. Are City employees ever told that tools, equipment and other property they handle are City assets, to be carefully used as necessary and returned in good condition after use? Were they ever authorized to sell salvaged metal and decide where to convey the cash received? That story is still working on the front page. But there is another one I have reported to you that hasn’t made the paper.
Perhaps someday Chief Finance Officer Ken Flatto along with Mayor Ganim can tell taxpayers that all funds received as part of City business are recorded accurately and timely for the purpose of maintaining honest and thorough accountability. Isn’t that what you assumed happens? Well think back to my comments about InPlant print operation. Tracking them from 2012-2016, I was surprised to discover over $800,000 of expenses were charged to Print shop in excess of what “balanced” monthly reports claimed. That averaged $160,000 per year. Ken Flatto did not review the research that I had done, nor did he provide a written explanation.
What he did was to include among assumed revenue items the sum of $10,000 as assumed Print Shop revenue for 2017-18 and for this year 2018-19. And how did that work out? During the first three months of 2017 almost $7,000 was reported in your monthly reports. Each month since, for more than 12 months “$0” is recorded. And that is in error because I have seen checks payable for printing presented and cashed. What is the explanation for not reporting ALL FUNDS received and saying so? How do taxpayers trust? And when B&A members hear such allegations from me why are you not investigating all of the numbers?
Oversight? Will you be discovered doing enough to satisfy your serious constituents? Time will tell.
Baby baby, where did the scrap go?
So JML, are you saying thatTrump will pardon Flynn?
TBK: Does a City employee need to be instructed in what is owned by all of us (the City) and that which he owns (paycheck and benefits, for instance)? Come to think about it, Ganim1 in his first rodeo had some issues of this kind. Something to think about….
JimFox: Will Bridgeport taxpayers next fall forgive the “disorganized” City governance that allows the van to be persecuted anonymously, processed incompetently, sent to the crusher without notification to the owner per state law, and now paying the van owner + an attorney who made a couple phone calls?? Ganim2 administratively expert? His leadership team….generally OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT and HONEST? Why look to the White House for absurd governance?
JML…this is what happens when any tower for the city tows a car. Pay dollars right away. If you wait,you lose. Once a tower tows a car,the entire BPT government walks away from. The Tower must be paid.
Your personal property, a car, is parked in front of your house on a City street for less than 48 hours with auto tax paid, plates indicating current registration and insured. In this case one tire may have had a slow leak and the bill was mailed to Stratford, but the Bridgeport tax was paid. Confirmation of the above might raise the reasonable question: Why tow? It was not ABANDONED.
And Acting Chief Perez indicated action 2 weeks into the situation when a phone call should have been enough to halt process. (Think as if it were Dan Roach’s auto?)
And what about State process for the tower with the 30 day letter. The VIN # is still available. Was it crushed? Sold for parts? Or sold to someone and still on the road? But Bridgeport taxpayers will make her partially whole PLUS and attorney fee!!! Only IN BRIDGEPORT? ABSURDITY RUN RAMPANT? Time will tell.
John, That’s if they sent the van to the crusher in the first place. I hope that Ms lee has the vin number.
anyway,City council “oversight” is determined by the City Charter. Time for a Charter Revision Commision. As i have said before, I nominate (Ret.Judge) Carmen Lopez to chair the Commision.