Bad Citizen: Bad Mayor



To City Council
From Hank Springer
Subject Ted Noftall and Citizen Audit /Budget Committee
hank4Dear Manager and Council members,
It appears to me that the Mayor does not approve that Ted Noftall and the Budget Committee have been making known more revelations about finance problems.  Since Ted Noftall has arrived on the scene, more information has come to the public and city council members, probably in no other time in the history of Port Orange City Hall.  I can believe that Mayor Green and the former Mayor Jim Ward could not possibly be pleased with the forced transparency which Ted and his supporters have bestowed on City Government.
It is not to the credit of past city councils that it took a citizen to keep everyone on their toes, and to suddenly be concered, worried,  or afraid of accountability.  It is not to the credit of some of Mayor Green’s supporters who decry such a turn of affairs, and warn that such accountability is not good for the morale of employees.  Said employees have in my perspective mostly been shafted by city hall administration, and now the soon to be former city manager and the eternal mayor have attempted to shift the focus of attention from departmental heads to city employees.  I feel for city employees who are being used as pawns in the special interest vision for Port Orange.
To me the situation is not complicated nor complex. To me it is a matter of “We are not going to be forced into transparency when it comes to negative findings.”  If you see it differently, tell me now, so that I might change my perspective of where this is all going.
I am not a politician, but am a 77 yr. old citizen who has closely watched national politics since the McCarthy Hearings.  The Nixon Watergate.  The Clinton spectacle.  The Iraq war and alleged WMD in Iraq, and when I came to Port Orange in 1994 started to follow the local politics of Port Orange.
My point is:  I never cease to be amazed out how inept  political players seem to be when confronting negative revelations. “It’s a right wing agenda.”  “It’s a not good citizen who wants to keep taxes down”.  “It depends on what your definition of “is” is.”  “It is and it isn’t”.  “This is only part of the problem” (but I won’t publicly say what the full problem is?) “What difference does it make”, both said on the national scene and repeated in Port Orange administration.
I urge you city council people to deter the course of war between Mayor Green and transparency, for the sake of your own personal political ambitions, and more importantly for the sake of the citizens, who I suggest you should let sleep and do not further alarm.  You know that taxes will probably have to be raised to meet the cost of inflation, take care of inter structures which have been neglected, and to make up for lost revenue due to bad management, a cost in the millions.  So my point is help your interested citizens get all the old bad business out in the open and possibly diminish the backlash which will come to you from more interested citizens when taxes are increased.
Pondering how callous and defiant politicians are when discussing true reform and transparency I come to the conclusion that they make absurd statements and situations worse, because they cater to special interest financial groups which do not want to see any curtailing of progress in their vision for the “investors” of Port Orange.
Let me summarize what I consider outstanding public mistakes, which I point out were not hidden in a maze of financial categories which even Bernanke would find  hard to understand.
  1.  Parker not forwarding a planning commission memo to the city council advising a moratorium on future construction in Port Orange because of complications with the Concurrency Formula.
    Vice Mayor Martin stated that “we have to be fair to developers”.  Mayor Green did not object.
  2. The secret purchase of the Lohman Funeral Home by the city of Port Orange, at a price more than twice its worth, which came as a surprise to the CRA members who were asked to approve the purchase after the fact.
  3. Mayor Green keeping knowledge to himself, and not sharing it with the city council, that Parker was making a special legal deal to enable Shelly to retire with financial options not made available to other employees.
  4. The mayor in effect telling a CRA member not complain about the Lohman purchase, and the Mayor telling a city council member not to complain that the chairman was not allowing a citizen to speak before the city council.
I have seen the climate of secrecy and hidden reasons for decisions in the city council in every city council until the present one.  Tell me if I am wrong that the Mayor wants to return to the old days, when he and the city council did not have to answer to citizens.
Now let me turn to that most feared word among some, accountability.  There is no doubt in my mind, that as public sentiment goes, nationally and locally, the next group of people the spot light of accountability will shine on is you, the city council members.  Tell me if I am wrong.  It is as clear to me as a cloudy day in the sunshine laws.  I know that I am thinking of directing focus on city council members who do not do the right thing in this climate, and I suspect those “sharks” as a former city councilman named them, are probably thinking of accountability for city council members, and I foresee apathetic citizens waking up when their water rates and taxes go up, asking, “how did this happen?”  You and I know how and why this happened.  I recommend for everyone’s sake, get all the hidden truths out now, make a stand for true reform and true transparency, and understand that the future of city politics is at stake now.  The legacy of Parker and Green has already been written in stone.  The legacy of the future of Port Orange City Politics is yet to be written, and the theme of such a declaration will be either written by you or future council members, if they can be coaxed to get into Port Orange City Politics.  Financial interests in the city of Port Orange have had it good, and that is not a bad thing.  The bad thing is that now that inept management and financial control has been revealed, financial interests seem to not want to take a breather and let city government reorganize, in a way which may not afford financial interests to have their cake and eat it too.
This financial sentiment was recently displayed when many financial interests showed up at a city council meeting to urge the city council to give a developer 10 million dollars.
The urgency of all that I have written can be highlighted and emphasized by the LaCour’s Riverwalk Park boondoggle which has yet to be finalized and completed.
If I, an ordinary citizen, with no talent for financial affairs, and maybe political affairs, see it this way, tell me why the citizens of Port Orange who wake up and tune into channel 199 POGTV will not see it my way?
Tell me, tell me, if I am wrong.  I should be corrected.  Allow me the chance to say I am wrong and now I see differently.  I would like to keep my taxes down.  How in the world can any city council member remain silent and not publically distance himself from a mayor who says such a person as I is not a good citizen. If I were a bad citizen I would not be interested in what you city council people do.
So, here it comes.  I will post on my web site, every day, the name of each city council person who does not publically distance himself from the Mayor’s thoughts that a citizen who wants to keep taxes down is not a good citizen.  How long should I give you to make such a declaration, please let me know.   Such a posting on my web site will be there for as long as I can maintain my web site, every day, because I think you all owe it to your constituents and if you cannot make such a distancing declaration tell me why so that I can publish your reasons for supporting Mayor
Green in his vision for the investors of Port Orange.
Sincerely, hank Springer
Posted on at   2:05:20 PM  July 14, 2014


From Ted Noftall:
Good evening Hank and Pat,
ted0Since 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.
Ted Noftall
Posted on at  2:07:33 PM  July 14, 2014


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