Since the Audit and Budget Advisory Board was featured prominently and somewhat inaccurately in a recent News Journal article some additional clarification is required.
The ABAB was established over the reluctance of the Mayor and outgoing Manager in the aftermath of the serious internal control deficiencies that were revealed in the spring and fall of 2012 with the Public Works and Finance debacles. The board currently consists of 7 members some of whom were active in the financial scrutiny of City operations before that board was formed and some who were not.
Those deficiencies that birthed this board did not happen overnight. They were years in the making, and misdirection regarding those deficiencies masked system wide internal control failures for just as long.
Those internal control deficiencies were the direct result of too cozy a relationship between a manipulative Mayor, and the Manager, Finance Director and the Auditor. Their cozy actions where all 4 failed to effectively monitor and report on the other and which harmed taxpayer interests greatly were undeniably non-feasant and mis-feasant . They were in some instances likely mal-feasant as well although we will never know for sure as no criminal investigations were ever undertaken.
So what are the people to do when the actions of the Manager, Finance Director and Auditor are working against the best interests of the people, AND what can they do to prevent such occurrences from happening again ?. The Port Orange Council wisely chose to follow the timeless wisdom of one of our greatest Founders who noted that “the only safe repository for the liberty of the people is with the people themselves”
Council after realizing it had been mislead for years with false assurances from the very people they relied on the most followed that sage advice by establishing
The ABAB to ensure that a volunteer citizen oversight board, possessing specialized educational and practical experience in matters of audit and finance would be on guard as yet another, and perhaps final failsafe, to alert Council and the People they are elected to represent, as to any potential concerns regarding the performance and independence of future Managers, Finance Directors and Auditors alike.
While it is difficult for an Auditor to betray a fundamental trust in less than 2 or 3 years on the job, such is not the case with the Manager and the Finance Director as they can betray taxpayer interests in a far shorter time frame.
- Betraying taxpayer interests was exactly what the outgoing Finance Director did in failing to ensure the financial records of the City were prepared on an accurate and comprehensive basis including ensuring that City bank accounts were reconciled in a timely manner, and that adequate safeguards were in place to prevent un-authorized spending.
- Betraying taxpayer interests was exactly what the Manager did in making excuses for, and obfuscating the Finance Director’s non-feasance instead of replacing him.
Opinions differ as to what should have happened at that point, BUT WHAT did happen is that ABAB members who were Citizen activists long before the ABAB was established called the Manager and the Finance director on their non-feasance, AND that caused a near year long push back that has cumulated in their recent resignations.
I make no apology for my role in those proceedings. The people deserved better performance than they received from the from the former long serving Manager and his Finance director in protecting their interests, And were under no obligation to accept similar shoddy performance going forward. AS PAINFUL as the current embarrassment is we are better of nipping this problem in the bud than allowing it to get progressively worse as happened in the years prior to 2012.
So where do we go from here ??
Do we need to stop and debate the “trust the Manager crowd ” as to whether citizens are the proper repository of their own liberties, OR whether they should have the unalienable right to scrutinize and criticize their government. I sure hope not as those questions have been long settled in the hearts of all but the ignorant, and those who would manipulate.
Where we go from here I would hope is that we learn from our recent experiences and establish a transparent government that is administered by competent individuals in a responsible manner with accountability and consequences for shoddy performance.
To get there we have to face the reality that unless Mayor Green steps down, or is recalled we have to wait him out BECAUSE as his 30 year career demonstrates, as long as he is permitted to remain behind the curtain he will be working as relentlessly as gravity in manipulating the situation to ensure his poor decisions from 10 and 20 years ago never receive a fair examination as they increasingly proven to be unworkable today. His efforts over just the past two weeks to find a compliant interim Manager and skirt the public participation statute regarding the million dollar missing fill dirt in the latest reclaimed lakes boondoggle being prime examples.
AND MR. MAYOR pontificating your well worn refrain from the dais that “ you need to see all the information before you can make a decision “ and that “ we will get back to you Ted” and never doing either does not constitute a transparent government. You and I hold different opinions on the value of your augmented water mining reclaimed irrigation system that have cost taxpayers $25 million for a series of Ponds, Pipes, Pumps and Lakes that do not work as intended UNLESS THE intention all along was to benefit engineers and contractors alike.
You are deadly afraid to have the true cost of this boondoggle be known and have thus far managed to find useful idiot managers like Kisela to serve as your foil as with the “peer review study” of the lakes design and performance that he commissioned earlier this year and which conveniently forgot to review your long serving “engineering peer “ who designed and supervised construction of those money pit lakes that you deny citizen access to …. unless of course they are members of the City’s favored hunt club.
On July 17th Council needs to immediately appoint assistant Manager Shannon Lewis to serve as the “ Acting Manager” until they decide to make other arrangements. Department hiring from this point forward needs to be done by Shannon and not the outgoing Kisela. Before July 31st Council needs to freeze all non-essential spending for the next year or so until they have selected a new Manager free from the Mayor’s interference, and until competent department directors are in place and we are receiving comprehensive financials and multi faceted detailed analysis’s in which justified confidence may be expressed.
If the Mayor and outgoing manager attempt to do otherwise they will fanning the flames of the justifiable indignations that surround the past 15 months of the Green/Kisela administration.
When the Range Rider come knocking and they will they need to be told “thanks but no thanks” Port Orange cannot afford any more of their free assistance. I would urge caution in this process. We need to get Kisela out of town, let the dust settle and get the November elections behind us, AND we will do just fine with Shannon.
In the longer term we need to recognize that the trend in our country is one of decreasing confidence in government in favor of greater citizen involvement, AND RETURN much of the Manager’s authority back to the Council. This process should begin immediately with provisional ordinance changes that should be subsequently placed before the people for ratification as Charter amendments in time for the 2016 elections.