Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 10, 2009 City Car Allowances and Crumley's "Mistake"

At the end of yesterday's city council meeting on sewer rates, Councilmember Claude Jinks brought up car allowances and the 33% cut in car allowances that City Administrator Jim Crumley had earlier proposed in the current budget.

It appears that Crumley's 33% cut only applied to employees who are still getting a car allowance, but that Crumley completely wiped out the car allowances of four parks and rec employees although this fact was never mentioned during the budget discussions.

From what I could gather, Crumley added $400/month car allowances for four parks and rec employees (Derwin Helton, Jerri Crockett, Paul Barger, and Jennifer Gentry) around 2006.

Yesterday, Crumley stated that giving these employees a car allowance was a "mistake." He added that he had run across his mistake during preparation of this year's budget and had corrected the "mistake" by taking away 100% of the car allowances that these employees had been getting.

A lengthy discussion about honesty followed with Crumley saying that these car allowances were included in his (Crumley's) contract negotiations with (deceased) former Mayor Gary Johnson and that at least some of the current councilmembers knew about all this. At that point, he said it had been a mistake on his part in giving these employees a car allowance years ago.

With the information that these four employees had been getting a car allowance, Kay Senter suggested that while these car allowances may have been given by "mistake" by Crumley, nevertheless, they should not be suddenly and completely eliminated. Senter's position, which was backed up by Bob Garrett and Claude Jinks, was that this was a matter of fairness and that the car allowances of these four employees should be reduced by 33%--as was done with all other car allowances--instead of being eliminated.

NOTE: It seems like a lot of agreements--such as increases in car allowances--were made in "negotiations" between Crumley and former Mayor Gary Johnson years ago. Now, no one is quite sure who knew about these negotiations, what exactly was agreed to, and who was told about these agreements.

All this brings up the need for more accountability in city government. If there are contract negotiations, the council needs to know what is going on and the council needs to approve the final contract instead of giving someone else such authority.

No one should have free rein to spend city tax dollars without first going before the Mayor and Council. The Mayor and City Council---not the City Administrator---set the tax rate and approve the city budget. The Mayor AND City Council need to know what's been put in the budget and they need to approve all contracts that involve the spending and budgeting of city money!

Again, it comes back to the basics of checks and balances and accountability. Elected officials have to pay attention and ask questions in order to provide for checks and balances and accountability. You can't just sit there and be a rubberstamp for someone else.

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