Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 28, 2010 City Needs To Borrow $2 Million for April-June Operations + A $2 Million Line of Credit "Just in Case"

More info from last Thursday's City Finance Committee Meeting.

The $2 MILLION "loan" that new City Administator Tony Cox has said that the City must have in order to meet its everyday operating expenses came up. Tony Cox turned the explanation over to Brian Janish, City Budget Director. Click here for Cox's February 11 financial presentation to council and his proposal to get a $2 Million loan to make payroll and pay debt and other expenses through June 30, 2010.

On February 25, Janish said that the city needs to borrow between $2-$4 MILLION to meet its budgeted expenses (payroll, debt, etc) for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Janish added that the city needs to be able to access at least $2 MILLION of these borrowed funds by April 1 with the extra $2 MILLION as a line of credit that is available as, or if, needed.

Since all previous discussion was about a $2 MILLION short-term loan, Kay Senter asked about the extra $2 MILLION that Cox and Janish want as a line of credit.

Janish replied that the extra $2 MILLION is being requested so it can be in place if there is a need without the city having to go back and start another loan process.

Also, for the first time in public, Janish mentioned that the loan/line of credit would include the Sewer Fund in addition to the General Fund. That is an interesting development, but no councilmember asked why the Sewer Fund is being mentioned now in connection with the loan/line of credit.

[In the past three years the Sewer Fund has had excess cash that has been used by the General Fund to meet General Fund operating expenses. What has happened to the Sewer Fund?]

Jinks asked how repayment would be made in six months. Janish said that "after WE borrow the money," it will be up to YOU seven councilmembers to decide how to pay it back.

Janish and Cox then said it will require, drum roll please, "Revenue Enhancements!"

"Revenue Enhancements" is polite political code for "we messed up, now taxes and fees have to go up again."

How were things messed up? Let's look back.

Historic 40-cent property tax increase in the City in 2007. Click here.

Desperate push for sales tax increase in 2008 with a 15-cent rollback in the 40-cent property tax increase. Click here (Feb 2008 countywide sales tax increase defeated) and here (City came back with a city only sales tax referendum that passed).

Big sewer fee increases one after the other. Click here and here.

Council passes 2010 budget in summer of 2009 after City Administrator Jim Crumley recommends cuts of $1.7 Million.  Click here.

Crumley canned despite Frank McGuffin's vote against the firing and Mayor Barile's protest that Crumley was being "railroaded."  Click here.

Interim Administrator Lynn Wampler comes in and tells Council that they are on the road to bankruptcy (my word) and that the budget that they passed a few months before is a disaster.
Wampler and Council make additional cuts of $900,000 to stave off or at least postpone a deficit situation. Click here.

Mayor Barile admits that the City had no money in reserves (no rainy-day funds) in 2007 and that she and the Council were just becoming aware of this and a lot of other stuff. Click here. 

Tony Cox comes in as City Administrator, looks at the finances, and says on February 12 that the City needs to "borrow" at least $2 Million for the General Fund to be able to meet its operational expenses, to pay its debts, and to make it to June 30, 2010, the end of the fiscal year. Click here.

Then on February 25, 2010, Cox and Janish say that the City needs to borrow $2-$4 MILLION for the General Fund AND Sewer Fund--most of which will be used between April and June 2010 and the balance of which will be a  line-of-credit "just in case."

How bad could the city's budgeting be if the City can not make it to the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2010) without a $2-$4 MILLION dollar loan?

How can the City add huge amounts of additional taxes (property and sales) and additional fees (sewer) to its budget over the past 2-3 years PLUS make large budget cuts in the summer of 2009 and then more budget cuts in November 2009 but still can't make it to June 30, 2010, without a $2-$4 MILLION loan and line of credit? 

Someone from way outside the tight-knit group needs to come in and see what's going on now and what went on in the past.

The budget that the Mayor and Council passed in June 2009 was nothing but a joke on the citizens and taxpayers. Who has to pay for this and the prior budget jokes?  The taxpayers, of course.  

Look for additional property taxes, new garbage fees, and/or increased stormwater fees---all under the name of "revenue enhancements." And there will be a few cuts, too, so the City will have "cover" to announce that we have looked at everything and made all the cuts we can. 

Mayor and Council to taxpayers: Sorry for the mismanagement, but we still have a Wish List and a Master Plan. We have walking trails to build, brick pavers to lay, lots of chrome to buy, and a beautiful cage right in front on the City Center for bad signs! Now pay up.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February 27, 2010 City Charter and Ordinance: Sewer Funds Must Be Kept in Separate Bank Account

At this past Thursday's City Finance Committee meeting, Councilmember Gene Brooks noted that city sewer funds are required by the City Charter and Ordinance to be kept in a bank account separate from general fund and other monies. 

I first mentioned this charter provision to City Attorney Dick Jessee a couple of weeks ago. Jessee replied that he could not respond to my question about this charter requirement unless an official asked him to answer.  Jessee did copy my e-mail question with its citation to the Charter provisions on the sewer fund to City Administrator Tony Cox and Mayor Barile.

A few days later, I called one of those officials--new City Administrator Tony Cox--to discuss these Charter provisions. 

Cox asked that I send him the charter provisions--even though he already had received them in my e-mail that Jessee had copied to Cox and Barile.  Instead of e-mailing to Cox the Charter provisions that he already had, I contacted Councilmember Brooks--an outspoken opponent of waste of taxpayer dollars--and asked if he would arrange a meeting with Mr. Cox to discuss this. At a meeting among Cox, Brooks, and myself a few days before the Finance meeting, I showed Mr. Cox the Charter sections and a City Ordinance, both of which say that sewer funds are to be kept in a separate bank account from other city funds and are not to be commingled with any other city funds.

[The Charter section and Ordinance that I provided to Jessee and Cox are on the city's website but, of course, there is always a concern that an online posting might be inaccurate or out-of-date, which is why I also asked Mr. Jessee and Mr. Cox to verify the accuracy of the online Charter and online Ordinance that I had noted.]

Mr. Cox was cordial and stated that he was researching the history of the Charter provision and that he had never seen the Ordinance before. He then added that he can't set up a separate sewer bank account right away and that it would take some time to make accounting adjustments to go along with fixing this long-standing Charter violation.

I can appreciate that it might take a couple of weeks to open a new sewer fund bank account and to make other necessary changes to come into compliance with the City Charter. However, in view of the serious nature of a Charter or Ordinance violation and in view of the repeated violations in 2007 and 2008 and 2009 that resulted in violation of state law, putting the sewer funds in a separate bank account should be a high priority, top-of-the-list item.  Click here for the background on the city's violations of state law.

If the City has an up-to-date ledger record of sewer revenue and sewer-related costs, the City can come into compliance by depositing the current sewer funds and future sewer revenues in a new, separate bank account for sewer funds and then paying sewer costs and expeditures out of the new sewer fund bank account rather than making pencil-and-paper ledger entries throughout the year and then trying to straighten it all out periodically or at the end of the fiscal year.

And as I have said before, even if the City were not required to keep sewer funds separate from other city funds by Charter or Ordinance, keeping sewer funds and general funds separate is the commonsense best practice in order to keep sewer funds from "accidentally" being used to pay general fund expenses and vice versa.

On the humorous side, perhaps someone needs to bring one of the city's red light cameras into the council chambers, take a picture of the Mayor and Council, and then give them each a ticket and a $50 fine for violation of the City Charter or City Ordinance.  They can pay the fine--and build up the city's finances! Or they can contest the ticket by appearing in City Court to cross-examine the picture. Or they can claim that someone else was driving the City's financial car and that they didn't have a clue and then throw themselves on the mercy of the court.

Friday, February 26, 2010

February 26, 2010 City: Requests for Audit Proposals Will Likely Go Out

At yesterday's City Finance Committee meeting, there was more discussion about the 2009 audit. Gene Brooks expressed concern that the city's longtime local auditors Craine, Thompson & Jones did NOT tell the Council in any of the last three years that the City was in poor financial shape or that Sewer Fund money was being used or moved to the General Fund to shore up and cover up the city's pathetic finances. Of course, former City Administrator Jim Crumley, current Budget Director Brian Janish, and current Assistant City Administrator Buddy Fielder didn't tell the council anything either.

New City Administrator Tony Cox didn't say it directly yesterday, but he strongly hinted that the City should advertise for new auditors and try to get a new set of eyes reviewing the city's finances and performing the city's audit.

I have said this same thing many times in previous years. It's common sense to periodically change auditors in order to get a fresh set of eyes going over the government books. And, as Tony Cox added, it just happens to be a "best practice" in government auditing.

Yes, seeking new city auditors isn't just a Noe thing, it is a BEST PRACTICE recommendation from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).  Click on image at left to enlarge. This GFOA document, recommending that solicitations for new auditors should go out at least every five years, was included with the 2009 city audit that was provided to all councilmembers. 

It was mentioned at yesterday's meeting that the Jones firm (Hiram Jones, Tom Jones, and James Craine) has been the city's sole auditing firm for about 30 years. The Jones firm and personnel merged a few years back with Glenn Thompson, CPA, and  are now performing the city's audit under the new firm name  Craine, Thompson & Jones (CTJ).

Performance of an audit is a professional service. RFP's (Request for Proposals) are advertised asking for proposals for auditing services from governmental auditors. As a professional service, Bob Garrett pointed out that there is no requirement that the low bid/low proposal be accepted. Instead, each proposal is evaluated on a number of factors including cost, services provided, and how the proposal meets the city's needs and purposes. 

CTJ may end up again as the low-cost proposal. If CTJ is the "low cost audit" proposal, the council will have to decide whether yet another "low cost audit"-- from the firm that failed to note the repeated violation of state law by Crumley and company in switching sewer fund money to the general fund in 2007 and 2008 and that failed to inform the council of the city's negative cash position and depletion of the city's rainy-day fund, trumps a "best practices audit" by another firm.

Friday, February 19, 2010

February 19, 2010 Eight County Commissioners Vote To Abolish Ethics Committee and Make County Attorney Rusty Cantwell "Ethics Officer"

Not surprisingly, the Hamblen County Commission voted yesterday to abolish its 5-man Ethics Committee.  

Not surprisingly, Hamblen County now has an "Ethics Officer."

Not surprisingly, the new "Ethics Officer" is county attorney Rusty Cantwell.

Pushing hard to disband the Ethics Committee that was established in 2007 and give the title of "Ethics Officer" to Cantwell were County Mayor David Purkey and Commission Chair/one-time Ethics Committee member Stancil Ford.

How will this new set-up work? County Attorney Rusty Cantwell represents all county employees and county officials.

So an ethics complaint against a county official or county employee is supposed to be sent to that person's attorney for consideration and action?

Yes. The Commission has just created yet another conflict of interest. The county attorney charges the county $150/hour and now ethical complaints against his clients will be sent to him so he can be paid $150/hour to receive and read complaints (against his clients!); handle the complaint himself (conflict of interest); or assign it to some other attorney (without a conflict) that the county will have to pay.

I guess the first complaint that our new Ethics Officer will handle is the one filed by the Hamblen County Civil Service Board against Sheriff Esco Jarnagin. This complaint was originally filed with the old and now "officially" disbanded Ethics Committee.

[I say "officially" disbanded because the five members of the Ethics Committee who were appointed to one-year terms in 2007 were not legally appointed or reappointed when their terms expired in June 2008. No one was appointed in 2009 and no one had been appointed to date in 2010. The original Ethics Committee members from 2007 (Commissioner Stancil Ford, Commissioner Joe Swann, Trustee Bill Brittain, James Harrison -attorney and citizen member, and Jack Cartwright-citizen member) just kept serving and serving year after year as "holdovers" without legal appointment. It looks like the Ethics Committee that violated the Sunshine Law by having a meeting without notice to the public on December 15, 2008, was made up of five people who acted as Committee members despite the fact that their terms had expired 6 months previous.]

Will Cantwell recognize that he has a conflict of interest in trying to handle an ethical complaint against one of his government clients? Will he charge the county $150/hour as he decides to which attorney he will give this complaint? Or will Cantwell take off his County Attorney hat and put on his Ethics Officer hat and handle the complaint against Jarnagin himself and collect his fee?

Several commissioners are led around by Stancil Ford and David Purkey. Purkey and Ford want to keep everything close to the vest and in-house.  Ethics?   One person--County Attorney Rusty Cantwell--is going to make the ethical calls from here on out and that one person has a clear conflict of interest that is obvious in the very first complaint that he has to consider. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010 State of Tennessee: Accountability for Selection of Companies Handling $120 Million of Insurance Premium Tax Credits

A lawsuit is being heard in Nashville over access to records related to TNInvestco, a program established by the General Assembly in 2009 as the Tennessee Small Business Investment Company Credit Act. The law established a base of $120 million of insurance premium tax credits that six investment firms certified by the state can sell to insurance companies who then invest the proceeds into Tennessee small businesses.

The law gives Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber and Revenue Commissioner Farr Reagan sole discretion to choose the TNInvestco participants.

Larry Coleman, an investment company executive, wants to see how Kisber and Farr graded the 25 TNInvestco applicants. Coleman also wants to see the documents showing that the chosen investment companies raised the required capital by selling the tax credits. 

The state has filed dozens of records related to TNInvestco under seal, saying the documents constitute “tax information” or “tax administration information” and thus are exempt from Tennessee's Open Records law.

Taxing Tennessee--one of the best blogs in the state of Tennessee--has a post.

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research has a good explanation here.

When six companies are chosen singlehandedly by two people to handle a state program involving large sums of money, there should be some level of outside oversight and accountability for administration of the program in order to ensure that the companies have performed their duties as required by law and that the companies were selected on the basis of identifiable criteria, not on the basis of friendships, "donations," or political factors/favors.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 17, 2010 Candidates for State Primary Elections and School Board

The field of candidates is not very crowded for the August primaries for state office and November General Election for state office.  In addition, four school board seats are up for grabs in the August local General Election. The school board seats are non-partisan---the candidates do not run in a primary or with a party affiliation.

State Representative: Don Miller (R)
                                 Sonny Moore (R)
                                 Vickey Gilbert (D)
                                 Larry Mullins (D)
                                 Timothy Griffin (I)

State Senator:            Steve Southerland (R)

School Board:
1&2                          Charles Cross (no opposition at this time)
5&6                          Carolyn Holt (no opposition at this time)
9&10                        Janice Haun (no opposition at this time)
11&12                      Clyde Kinder (no opposition at this time)

Click here for the post of possible candidates for the May Primary and August General Election.

February 17, 2010 Qualifying Deadline for Candidates in May 2010 Primary Nears

There are a lot of people running for office in 2010. 

Here is the breakdown of potential candidates as of this morning for the May 2010 Primary and August General Election: (R) Republican; (D) Democrat; and (I) Independent.  Some have already returned their signed qualifying petitions. Others still have a petition out.

County Mayor
Bill Brittain (R)
John Litz (D)
William Newsome (I)

John Baskette (R)
Nicole Buchanan (R)
Jon Pless (R)
Bill Sanders (R)
(No Democrat candidate)

Esco Jarnagin (R)
Brett Kilgore (R)
Ernie Burzell (D)
Freddie Kimbrough (D)
Roy Rucker (D)

County Clerk
Carla Steadman (R)
Linda Wilder (R)
Scotty Rines (D)

Register of Deeds
John Clawson (R)

Circuit Court Clerk
Vickie Moore (R)
Gary Oaks (R)
Kathy Robertson (R)
Teresa West (R)
Bobby Davis (D)

County Commission (14 districts)
1st:  Paul LeBel (R)

2nd: Keith Eagle (R)
       Nancy Phillips (R)

3rd: Dana Wampler (R)

4th: Tilman Goins (R)
       Bobby Reinhardt (I) ["I" is a correction with thanks to a reader]

5th: Louis "Doe" Jarvis (R)

6th: Tim Goins (R)
       Joe Spoone (D)

7th: Howard Shipley (R)
       Dennis Alvis (I)

8th: Tish Beck (R)
       Tim Dennison (R)

9th: Larry Baker (R)
      Melvin Greene (D)

10th: Herbert Harville (R)
        Jeffrey "Bo" Shultz (R)

11th: Guy Collins (R)
         Nicholas Knight (I)

12th: Doyle Fullington (R)
         Thomas R. Cash (I)

13th: Stancil Ford (R)
         Doug Deering (I)

14th: Larry Carter (R)
        Thomas Massey (R)

1&2  Paul McKinney (R)
         Edward Schubert (R)
         James Collins (I)

3&4 Tommy McKinney (R)
        James Rose (R)

5&6 Jess "Hoot" Gibson (R)
        Ernest Noe, Jr. (R)

7&8 Durwood Kizer (R)
        Dwayne Sliger (R)

9&10 Clayton Albertin (I)
          Donald Ashford (R)
          James "Pondy" Drinnon (R)

11&12 Tom McKinney (R)

13&14 Wayne Blevins (D)
            Ricky Sutton (R)

Click here for candidates for the state primary and school board.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 16, 2010 Jinks: Is City Ready To Use Eminent Domain for Walking Paths Through Residential Yards?

At the City Finance Committee meeting on Thursday, February 11, construction of greenways (trails) through Morristown was discussed.

A large grant is tied to the project, but there are also local costs associated with the trail development and construction. Various estimates for local costs were tossed around--$150,000, $300,000, maybe more, maybe less.  There was no vote, but Administrator Cox took the tenor of the councilmembers' discussions to be indicative of a consensus to spend more dollars in preparing for this project in case it proceeds at some time in the future.

Then Councilman Claude Jinks discussed the elephant in the room. Jinks asked how the City would acquire residential strips of land for construction of the trails.  I have not seen the trail drawings, but Jinks indicated that current plans establish trails that go through residential areas in the Fairview community. Jinks added that he had spoken to people in that community and that they are opposed to having walking trails through their backyards, sideyards, front yards or anywhere on their property.

Jinks said some of these property owners will not sell their property for trails, and he asked if councilmembers were prepared to use eminent domain to take private property from individuals in order to make walking trails through those taxpayers' and homeowners' yards.

If the trails involved the building of new sidewalks along the street or widening of existing sidewalks, that would be one thing.  It is an entirely different thing, however, to go into a peaceful residential neighborhood and have the city take your property and your neighbor's property to build walking trails through yards so  people--who you don't know anything about--can walk behind and beside your house.

It is hard to imagine that the city approved lengthy walking trails through existing residential backyards, but, according to Jinks, that is the current design.

Trails in the appropriate locations sound good. Trails that take private property and result in strangers being able to walk around and through residential side, front, or backyards are ridiculous and ought to be nipped in the bud.

I don't believe any of these wonderful trails go through Vantage View or any councilmember's yard. Wonder how the Mayor or a councilmember would feel if the City came knocking and said I am taking a strip of land 200' long and 10' wide in your backyard so I can make a walking path for people that you don't know to use?

Friday, February 12, 2010

February 12, 2010 Administrator Cox: City Cash Runs Out in May 2010. $2 Million Bank Loan Needed To Pay City Bills

The Mayor and City Council got a picture of just how well Jim Crumley managed the city's finances yesterday. They took it all to heart. The Mayor and Council also found out why they need to ask questions and act as a "check and balance" in the handling of city finances to protect the voters and taxpayers. Time will tell if they got that part of the message.

New City Administrator Tony Cox presented the sad tale in a power-point presentation in the Mayor's little conference room. [The Mayor and Council and Administrator and the local "news"paper reporter sit around a conference table and city staff and citizens and a representative from McGill and Associates stand around the wall or in the hallway and try to see and hear what's going on.] 

Nutshell: The City had negative cash balances at the end of FY 07, 08, and 09. Jim Crumley--and perhaps others--covered it up by creating unauthorized "loans" or "payables" and "receivables" to hide his use of sewer fund monies to pay general fund payroll, debt, and other basic expenses in each of those years.

Today, the City is again going to be out of cash before the end of the budget year. There will be a negative cash balance in May 2010 ---and that's with the cuts that were made during the summer 2009 budget process and with the additional cuts that were made a few months ago.

To take care of its lack of cash and lack of a fund balance or rainy-day fund to get the city through to the end of the budget year, Cox recommends that the City get a short-term bank loan of about $2 Million Dollars to pay debt, payroll, and other operating costs in May and June 2010.

The City is not going the illegal route that was taken in 2007, 2008, and 2009 when Crumley, et al, hid the cash problems/lack of rainy day funds and instead used took sewer rate-payer monies to pay general government expenses without getting council or state approval as required by state law.

Cox said that the long-time city auditors (Craine, Thompson, & Jones) did not point out or alert the council to the negative cash flow in past years. Cox added that the information about the negative cash situation was "in" the past audits IF you looked for it. 

If you are a CEO (Mayor and Council), wouldn't you expect your auditor--to whom you have paid big bucks-- to let you know that you have a serious cash flow problem?  Wouldn't you expect your auditor to inform you that your Administrator has been illegally using sewer fund money to pay general fund expenses without informing council of this action and without getting inter-fund loan approval from council and from the state as is required by state law? If you reviewed the audit or even if you didn't, wouldn't you at least ask a few simple general questions, like How are we doing? How does our rainy-day fund balance look? How much of our fund balance is available for an emergency?

Instead of an honest audit presentation or questions being asked, it looks like the auditors provided the audit (late), cashed their check (quickly), and then pretty much told the Mayor and Council to go and figure out for yourself if you are in good shape or bad shape.  Don't ask and we won't tell.

There are several groups or individuals who are responsible for the mess the city is in.

1. The Mayor and Councilmembers for failing to ask even basic questions of the auditors and of the former City Administrator Jim Crumley and for failing to monitor and provide some kind of check on the city's finances.
2. The auditors for failing to point out to the Mayor and Council basic and important post-audit financial information --such as, you have a serious cash-flow problem! The auditors for failing year after year to note that unauthorized switching of money from the sewer fund to the general fund was taking place to cover up the cash-flow problem.
3. Jim Crumley and all his confidantes who knew what was going, who helped him cover up the unauthorized money switching, and who failed to inform council of the financial problems.

To help "fix" what has been created by a total financial failure at the city, Cox gave council a number of  choices for next year's budget. Raise revenue by increasing property taxes. Raise revenue by charging a garbage fee.  Cut expenses.  Who pays for years and years of mismanagement? Taxpayers and Ratepayers.

[During the meeting, Cox only briefly mentioned the upcoming 2010 sewer rate study (another cost of $18,000 or so) to tell the City how much more needs to be added to sewer rates---over and above the increases that were tacked on last year after the summer 2009 sewer rate study. How many sewer rate studies can the city afford? When is the city going to "study" the different costs for sewer customers who live outside the city v. inside sewer customers?]

Just for old times sake, take a brief stroll down memory lane to see who sat by praising Jim Crumley and fiddling while the city finances burned.

Click Here. Here. Here. Here. Here.  Those who didn't have a clue and thought Jim Crumley was "railroaded."  Those who didn't have a clue and didn't look at audits for years and years. Those who didn't have a clue and who fiddled and spent and are still spending today because it sounds like such a "nice" project.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

February 9, 2010 City Audit for 2009 Is Not in Bound Form Yet, But It May Be Ready for Finance Committee Meeting on February 11

After the Planning Commission meeting today, I asked new City Administrator Anthony Cox about the 2009 city audit.

He said it is "almost" ready.  According to Mr. Cox, the 2009 audit is not in official bound form yet, but he is hopeful that this audit--for the period 7/1/08-6/30/09--will be in final form in time for this Thursday's Finance Committee meeting.

If it's ready on Thursday, the 2009 city audit will be about six weeks late--while that's nothing to brag about, it's a definite improvement over the five to six-month delay in providing the 2008 audit! For background, click here, here, and here.

I was pleased that Mr. Cox offered to make the 2009 draft audit available upon request. The draft audit was passed out to the council on January 19th.  This was a refreshing attitude that is in marked contrast to interim-Administrator Lynn Wampler's refusal to provide a copy of the draft audit under the mistaken claim that it was not a public record.

Mr. Wampler was helpful to the council and appeared to have solid financial credentials. However, he was wrong in saying that the draft 2009 audit was not a public document and in refusing to provide it upon request.

Fortunately, the new City Administrator appears to be aware of what constitutes a public document.

February 9, 2010 Planning Commission Closes Alleys and Roads for School Board

The Morristown Regional Planning Commission met at 4:00 today in the City Council Chambers to close alleys and roads around East High for the Hamblen County Board of Education.  Absent was Frank McGuffin.

The Planning Commission then adjourned to the Mayor's little conference room for a conference call with a Nashville attorney who is assisting the City in revising its current sign policy.

Many of the attorney's concerns centered around devising a sign policy that does not impair or violate the First Amendment rights of citizens.   Attorney Kelley Hinsley is on the Planning Commission.  He pointed out that the "sign attorney" was attempting to avoid constitutional issues such as prior restraint on the exercise of  citizens' freedom of speech and expression.

The Constitution. The First Amendment. Avoiding prior restraint on free speech. Avoiding actions that chill freedom of speech.  It's nice to hear someone remind the city council that there is a Constitution and that even a local sign ordinance must be in accord with the Constitution.

Although the press was not at either meeting, maybe there will be a press release "news"paper article or perhaps Bob M. will wait and report on the city's draft sign ordinance some other day.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

February 3, 2010 City Administrator Anthony Cox: 2009 Audit Is Still Not Ready

During the City Administrator's report yesterday, Anthony Cox told the Mayor and Councilmembers that the 2009 final audit is still not ready.

At the January 19th meeting, a preliminary/draft audit was given to council. The final audit was supposed to be ready no later than yesterday. Cox gave no explanation for the delay, and neither the Mayor nor any councilmember asked for an explanation.

The current auditors (Craine, Thompson & Jones) have been late with the audit for many years. The 2008 audit (for the period 7/1/07-6/30/08) was due by December 31, 2008. It was provided some five months later, prompting ex-City Administrator Jim Crumley to recommend in May 2009 that the city solicit bids for new auditors. Click here. Jim Crumley and I disagreed on many things, but that was one time when he was right.

After Jim made that proposal, the auditors blamed the lateness of the 2008 audit on being unable to get timely reports from MUS.  Craine, Thompson & Jones then promised that the 2009 audit (for the period 7/1/08-6/30/09) would be provided in a timely manner, assuring the council that the 2009 audit would be ready no later than December 31, 2009.

That self-imposed December 31, 2009, deadline wasn't met. January 2010 has passed by. And now we're into February 2010 and no final audit.

While a timely audit AND a new set of auditing eyes are still needed, my guess is that there will again be someone else to blame, all will be forgiven, and the Mayor and Council will carry on as before.