By Stephen Wagner
In November of last year I wrote about what it takes to be an effective citizen in today’s society. I spoke to social media radically changing the way we make political decisions and on "the democratization of the truth."
One way that local governments control public opinion is obvious: they control what the public learns about what is being done on their behalf. Citizens bear the weight for these unseen decisions in the form of many civil suits, constantly increasing taxes and fees, and the tremendous waste of time that a lack of organization dictates.
Lake Lotawana is again facing a new complaint regarding it’s goverance, this time filed with the EEOC. At this point, the particulars are not as important as the management failures that allowed this to happen. The complaint is brought by an applicant for a City position claiming age and gender discrimination after a candidate, that some feel fell short of qualifying for the position, was hired.
Again, this is a failure in management to correctly identify and remediate risk in its human resources mode.
Now, no one likes to be caught making a mistake even though it is in our nature to occasionally act impulsively or without appropriate circumspection. It is not a crime. But it must be acknowledged and evaluated or we are doomed to repeat it. Much like we already have.
So when politicos decide to show themselves, how can we judge their veracity? Their past behavior? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
• Personnel records in the form of medical records of former Chief of Police Jeff Rogers were taken from City Hall and eventually ended up in the hands of an attorney that represented an individual suing the City.
• The Mayor nor the Board reported the theft to outside law enforcement for investigation.
• At least one Alderman has removed case files from the Police Department.
• Why did an alderman leave mid-term?
• An Alderman wrote emails and telephoned a civilian member of the now defunct Police and Public Safety Committee intimating retaliation against Chief if that member didn’t "go along." From an email: "You may read anything you wish into the next statement. Your presence on the committee would detract from the commitment to bring the Chief back to be an effective leader." The reason for this position? The Mayor didn’t like the member.
• A City resident’s property was reassessed by the County Tax Office after the City notified the County. The work done at the property did not rise to level of reporting while others that exceeded the threshold, have not been reported.
• An Alderman told an Officer in the City’s Police Department, to change his story after the officer related that he had not taken a report from a citizen on orders from the Mayor.
• Currently, the City spent $113,000 more than it took in in 2013, yet the Mayor has insisted that we have a surplus of $500,000, unaffected by this excess.
At the December public meeting of the BOA, the Mayor stated that the City’s budget was "on track." He also stated that looking at the budget was not the way to determine the City’s fiscal health. Instead he stated that the "cash sheets," which apparently represent the bank ledger, is the only way to tell. (Anyone seen those?) The same general statement was reported at the January Alderman’s work session.
Amazing and confounding statements in and of themselves, how did the Mayor manage to lose control to the tune of $113,000 in the two short weeks between the work session and the open meeting? Were his previous assertions just wishful thinking or is there something else?
Not accounted for in any of this dialog is the approximately $160,000 for the new public works building, which sits unfinished, which did not even appear as a line item on the 2013 budget. Where did that money come from? Since when is $160,000 so insignificant to not warrant mentioning in the budget?
Alderman Reed’s direct questioning of the Mayor two months ago as to where all this money came from remains unanswered. It deserves an answer.
I understand that we in the City want to downplay our problems. That’s understandable. But we are paying for that and we are paying a lot. High fees for permits and sewer service (we are still in the top 5 in the entire state for sewer fees charged!) create these alleged half million dollar surpluses is nothing less than "under the table" taxation.
Or maybe we are not being told the truth.
We’ll discuss that next week as well as the multi-million dollar legal issues that could encumber the City taxpayers for as long as twenty years. Of course without their permission.