The Mayor and City Council and City Administrator have been violating the city charter and a city ordinance for years. The City Charter, which is the governing document for city government, states that Sewer Fund monies must be kept separate from all other funds. An Ordinance that was passed by the Mayor and Council years ago says the same thing.
Despite its own Charter and Ordinance, the City lumps its Sewer Fund monies in the same bank account with General Fund monies and other funds. Why? Would it be so General Fund expenses can be paid with checks drawn off the one bank account, thus accessing Sewer Funds to pay General Fund expenses when General Fund cash has been depleted as occurred in 2007, 2008, and 2009? Only the Mayor, Council, and City Administrator and staff could answer that question, and, of course, auditors who apparently made an "adjusting entry" for each illegal and unauthorized switcheroo.
I initially tried to get these violations addressed and resolved privately. I gave a copy of the Charter provision and the Ordinance to Administrator Cox shortly after he arrived, and I discussed the matter with Councilman Gene Brooks and Cox. At that time, Cox said he would "research" this matter. I waited several weeks on the "research," called Mr. Cox again, and was told that nothing had been done and that this situation was not a priority. Yes, a Charter and City Ordinance violation is not a priority for the City Administrator.
With no action being taken, I finally made my concerns public at the May 4 council meeting. Cox responded by repeating that he had more pressing things to take care of and planned to look into this later in the summer. Councilmember Senter said that the council was "aware" of the situation. Yes, the City Administrator, Mayor, and Councilmembers are aware of their violation of the City Charter and City Ordinances, but not one of them expressed any concern or took any action.
[And no, the "news"paper did not report my May 4 statement to council about its violations of its own Charter and its own Ordinance. And, no, the "news"paper never asked for documentation of this allegation when I first made it public on May 4. Apparently, the "news"paper thinks that violations of City beer ordinances are front-page material (see "news"paper article of May 6), but the "news"paper doesn't consider the Mayor and Council's violations of the City Charter and City ordinances newsworthy.]
Another two weeks passed and nothing was done, so at yesterday's May 18 council meeting, I repeated my concerns about the city's violations of its own charter and ordinances and handed the Mayor and each member a copy of the Charter provision found at http://www.mymorristown.com/Charter.html:
Sec. 4. Be it further enacted. That all proceeds received from the sale of bonds issued under this Act and all fees, rents, tolls or other charges received by the city from the operation of sewerage system...shall be paid to the city administrator, or in the absence of the office of the city administrator, the mayor, who shall not commingle any money so received with any other monies of the city, but the monies received shall be deposited in a separate bank account or accounts, in the name of the city.
And a copy of the Ordinance found at http://www.mtas.utk.edu/public/municodesweb.nsf/5cde681dbdedc10f8525664000615fc4/97d6f0faecb79831852569220068c28a/$FILE/morristown.t-18.pdf
18-308. Recorder to keep sewer charges in separate accounts. The recorder shall keep the funds received from sewer charges in separate accounts...as set out in § 9 of the resolution adopted by the city council on May 15, 1959...
I asked council to uphold their oath of office. I asked the Mayor to uphold her oath and perform her duty to ensure that City ordinances are enforced:
It shall be the duty of the mayor...to see that all the ordinances of the city are duly enforced, respected and observed within the city; [and] to take an oath of office before he enters upon the duties of the same....
Why is following these charter and ordinance provisions important?
1. Because a separate Sewer Fund might have prevented or could, at least, have provided advance warning that the general fund was in a deficit cash balance situation at the end of FY 07, 08, and 09.
2. Because separation of the Sewer Fund ensures better accountability for sewer fees and expenditures.
3. Because the Sewer Fund is a business enterprise fund or operation of the City while the General Fund is a government operations fund.
4. Because the Mayor, Councilmembers, and the City Administrator-- as much or more so than any other person in the City---should follow the charter and ordinances of the City of Morristown.
This is not rocket science.
The Mayor and Councilmembers took an oath of office. One of the specific duties of the Mayor is to see that the Ordinances of the City are enforced and respected.
For the Mayor and Councilmembers and City Administrator to follow the Charter and Sewer Ordinances requires no more than setting up a separate Sewer Fund bank account and getting checks for that account.
There is absolutely no excuse for the Mayor, Councilmembers, and the City Administrator to knowingly and willfully continue to violate the City Charter and City Ordinance(s). [The City Attorney is aware of the Charter and Ordinance provisions and is also aware of the continuing violations by the Mayor, city officials and staff.]