Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 25, 2009 Crumley, Facing Majority Opposition on City Council, Is on the Way Out

A majority of city councilmembers are now apparently on board to remove City Administrator Jim Crumley.

A similar effort to remove Crumley last year was never able to get majority support.

New councilmembers Bob Garrett and Gene Brooks make no bones about their disdain for and distrust of Crumley. Since their election in May, Crumley has been scrambling to try to hold on to his position.

Through the budget process this year, longtime councilmembers Claude Jinks and Kay Senter have increasingly been open about their frustration with Crumley and Crumley's failure to be honest about city car allowances, shifting of money without informing council, initiation of projects without requesting council approval, and other issues. Click here for more.

Frank McGuffin generally says little about Crumley publicly but does express strong opinions about the city's handling of commercial garbage whenever that topic comes up.

Mayor Sami Barile and Doc Rooney have been and appear still to be solidly in Crumley's corner, depending on Crumley for financial information and advice. Click here for Barile's defense of Crumley and request that council keep its nose out of city business.

Mayor Barile was elected in a 3-way race in 2007. She was sworn in in May 2007 and promptly got a lesson in Crumley-economics as Crumley belatedly revealed to the new Mayor and Council that the city was in dreadful condition.

In 2007, Crumley told the new mayor and council that a 40-cent property tax increase (a 41% increase from $0.97 to $1.37) was needed just to keep the city going. This "revelation" came JUST ONE YEAR after Crumley's 2006 pronouncement that the city was in wonderful shape and that he anticipated no tax increase in the foreseeable future! Click here for my post and read Crumley's comments in the local "news"paper.

What the Mayor and Council should be doing is finding out exactly what happened between May 2006 and May 2007. If Crumley was telling the truth about the city's wonderful financial condition in 2006, then where did all the money go? Without a major recession or dramatic downturn at the time, how can you go from economic bliss to economic disaster in 12 months?

The Council "almost" did the right thing last year. I believe Crumley will resign or retire and leave this year--most likely by agreement and without forcing a vote on it. [If the city has to fund a Crumley buy-out or severance package, the money can come from the one-time excess sales tax revenues that are set aside for one-time spending. A Crumley buy-out, if necessary, would be a wise investment.]

The question then becomes what will the Council do to become more involved and informed about city business after a new administrator is hired? How will the city council prevent being kept in the dark when a new administrator comes on board?

No matter who is hired, the city council needs to limit the new administrator's freedom to spend and shift money wherever he wants to. CHECKS AND BALANCES. The city council needs to set new guidelines and require regular and detailed financial reporting from the new administrator and city finance director. ACCOUNTABILITY. The city council needs to ask questions about the city's debt. COMMON SENSE. The city council needs to hold all meetings at hours when the majority of the public can attend if they want to. OPENNESS. The city council needs to tape its meetings and show them on the government access channel. TRANSPARENCY.

In order to find out what is really in the current budget, the city council needs to look at each line item of the city budget and then ask for a specific print-out of the checks written and charged to that line item. The coming year should be spent in learning what Crumley is/was really doing with city taxpayer dollars. Then procedures should be established to make sure that the council is never again left in the dark about the city's financial situation, contracts, debt, sewer, etc.

The Mayor and Council can not and should not blame Crumley alone for the current mess. Crumley could NOT have remained in his position and could NOT have exercised the power that he has without the permission (stated or tacit) of the Mayor and City Council.

The real problem is as much with the council and its policies as it is with Jim Crumley. And the same situation will repeat itself with a new administrator until and unless clear financial guidelines are set up and until and unless the Mayor and Council start insisting on financial reporting and actually examine those reports.

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