Well, last Thursday's vote by Commission to give up its authority to review and approve or reject budget amendments went like I thought it would. Commissioners surrendered their authority, threw up the white flag, and said the Mayor can move budgeted money around without Commission approval. The vote was 10-3. Ten Commissioners said the Mayor can move money without their approval---he just needs to tells them what he did with the money later.
Commissioners Tom Lowe, Edwin Osborne, and I opposed giving up this oversight function. Commissioner Maudie Briggs was absent. It was a real low-point in terms of accountability. Accountability seems to be a neat word to throw around at campaign time. It's pretty hard and takes a lot of time and effort to actually be accountable after the election's over. Some people don't have the time for that.
This vote boiled down to whether you want more financial power centralized in the hands of one person (County Mayor) or whether you want a government of checks and balances where the Mayor and Commission are involved together in financial decisions. This isn't about trust--because in handling public funds "trust, but verify" should be the standard. This isn't about streamlining the process--because you can't have checks and balances in government if you vote, as 10 commissioners did, to eliminate one of the checks. I'll have more about why we need more, not fewer, checks and balances on the office of the County Mayor in future blogs.
What's next? In remarks to my fellow commissioners at our June 23rd meeting, I let them know that I am no longer going to wait for the Commission to address the problems that we have. Many steps toward accountability have been proposed during my nearly 3 years in office. Mayor David Purkey has stopped nearly every one of them. The Mayor opposed my proposal that we adopt a policy requiring "fiscal notes" from the Finance Dept. that would outline the financial impact of proposed contracts and resolutions on county revenues and expenditures.
The Mayor vetoed another proposal that passed in the full commission. Commissioner Osborne, who is a CPA, presented a simple and logical accounting proposal that asked that the Mayor and his Finance Dept. clean-up the county's books after the auditors have come in and after they have told the Finance Dept. what adjustments are needed. Osborne said this would give the county "one set of numbers" at the end of our fiscal year and would eliminate the confusion that arises when a citizen asks for financial information and gets one answer if he looks at the audit and gets a different answer if he looks at the Mayor's records. I moved for adoption of this proposal in Commission. It passed. The Mayor vetoed it.
That veto took the cake and sent up a very red flag. Why does the Mayor insist on keeping two sets of numbers? When you ask for financial information, which number are you given? Which number is right?