Is Staff Out to "Get Ted" or "Get Everyone?"

Since Ted Noftall pointed out another of their water-billing snafus, staff at the Finance Department  has been scurrying around in typical CYA fashion justifying its heavy-handed policies.

 
It seems the City had been billing J&M Moving and Storage (Ted’s business) at a 1″-meter rate instead of a 2″-meter rate since 2003.  When the City’s mistake was uncovered pursuant to a water leak issue in August, Ted was informed that he would be back charged for a year at the 2′-meter rate.  (The amount of water used did not change but the amount paid for it would go up.)  It took two months for an additional charge of $692.76 to appear on J&M’s bill.
During that two month period the “scurrying around” took place.  Staff cobbled together the following Agenda Item asking for City Council approval to their “past practice” of charging customers for City mistakes.  Council voted unanimously for this gloss of legality.
 

Screw the customer

This raises a lot of questions:

  1. Is it legal to charge citizens money without an resolution or ordinance in place?
  2. What is the existing written policy and when was it written?
  3. How, and how often, has the policy been applied in the past?
  4. How can bad past policy be used to justify bad current policy?
  5. How can bad policy in another city be used to justify bad policy in Port Orange?
  6. How can you be held responsible for a mistake made by someone else?

Whether this Agenda Item was written to specifically target Ted Noftall or was more generally designed to get into as many wallets as possible, it should to be relegated to the trash heap.  Members of Council need to pull on their big-boy pants and recognize that they represent the citizens, not the staff, of the City of Port Orange.  Like most Americans, I was raised to accept responsibility for my own mistakes–if council doesn’t now accept responsibility for its mistake in approving this Agenda Item, it will have me accepting responsibility for the mistakes of staff as well.
That’s not the America I know.
 

10 thoughts on “Is Staff Out to "Get Ted" or "Get Everyone?"

  • November 27, 2015 at 5:26 pm
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    Tracey Reihm told me in late August 2015 that I was going to be back billed for 1 years water service at 2″ meter rates.
    That back billing totaling $692.76 did not appear on my September statement, nor did it appear on my October statement.
    Rather it appeared on my November statement AFTER the attached agenda item # 25 was passed at the October 6th 2015 Council meeting on consent and without discussion.
    This agenda item appears to be have been tailor written to sanction punishing me punitively for yet another a City billing error.
    My question to Council, the Manager and the City Attorney is a simple one
    By what authority does the City reach into a citizens pocket for so much as a thin dime absent a resolution, ordinance or statute authorizing same ? ( and there is no resolution, ordinance or statute authorizing back billing for staff errors )
    I was told this policy of back billing had been done in the past and that past policy justifies current policy from a legal certitude.
    That does not even begin to pass my smell test.
    It would appear to me that one of two things has occurred.
    * EITHER Council was fully briefed in secret meetings and agreed that citizens should be penalized for staff errors,
    * OR Council was played yet again with another disingenuous consent agenda item whose implications were poorly understood if they were understood at all.
    I guess a third possibility does exist and that is Council is not bothering to even read some of the items on which they are voting.
    What is going on here is the old Port Orange two step where the Manager refuses to make any decisions, or take any actions until Council has approved that decision and action. We saw that only a month or two ago with the Manager’s polling of Council to sanction shuting down the read file , AND HIS more recent request that Council approve a nebulous Utility dept reorganization. Now Council has virtually zero understanding of that reorganization …. but they approved it anyway AND IN SO doing have ensured they have a vested interest in making sure that reorganization will never be critically examined if things go array. This is exactly why we have had so many phony investigations in the past that tell us nothing of value regarding responsibility and accountability.
    AND this is where it really gets sad. Even if Council is intent on passing a Resolution or Ordinance to penalize citizens for staffs mistakes they cannot do so ” after the fact ” utilizing a Resolution or Ordinance ” with retroactive force and effect ” AS LEAST not according to Section 1 Article 9 of the Constitution which reads No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
    The fundamental arrogance or ignorance of this bunch in failing to abide by even a fundamental high school understanding of the Constitution is alarming. It makes you wonder what other Citizen abuses they are capable of, and as luck would have it we have one that will be discussed at the Dec 1st Council meeting.
    I had hoped that Council was committed to go the distance in replacing the moral decay of the Kisela administration with real open government, BUT I now fear that is no longer the case with Council’s silence on the Manager’s action to frustrate transparency, coupled with their secret meetings with the Manager to discard dissent in favor of the newfound congratulatory harmony we have seen on the dais as of late. .
    At this point with effective over-sight by Council on the shelf the UN-accountable actions and the UN-explained spending plans of the menagerie led by Johansson should be of no less concern than Kisela’s of barely a year ago and we all know how that ended.
    I was a first hand wittness to that history and even made some of it myself. If the residents of Port Orange do me the great honor of electing me their Mayor that will have my word that I will not be there to mark time but to make a difference.
    In this instance Council forgot their first duty is to protect the people from abuse, AS THEY HAVE many other times since the turmoil that began in 2012 In those instances as I expect will be the case in this one no apology will be given, no responsibility will be accepted, and they will not hold themselves accountable for their failure.
    If they did perhaps other employees beyond mid level scapegoats would likewise be held responsible and accountable for their performance also. …
    Ted Noftall
    Candidate for Mayor
    City of Port Orange -2016

    Reply
  • November 28, 2015 at 11:24 am
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    This action that has been intentionally perpetrated against Ted is nothing less than a reprisal against him by city hall for holding city officials feet to the fire in his activism and quest for open and transparent governance. Reprisals against employees by certain city officials and members of upper management are pretty common in Port Orange if these employees do not tow the party line or if in the course of doing their jobs honestly they expose malfeasance, misfeasance, or incompetence in the administrative dynasty or the city politic. Hopefully, the old saying that it is always darkest before the dawn is true, and in 2016 Mr. Noftall will be elected as our new mayor so that the incompetence malfeasance dynasty building, and reprisals will begin to be exposed and eradicated.

    Reply
  • November 28, 2015 at 3:15 pm
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    OK, turn the tables on this.
    Mr Noftall is now the Mayor (or Councilman) How would he handle this ?
    This is one instance, how many more are still out there ?

    Reply
  • November 28, 2015 at 6:16 pm
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    Something did happen with the Mayor’s water bill and he had $8000 taken off his bill!!!

    Reply
    • November 29, 2015 at 9:41 am
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      And someone on city staff removed that $8000 from the Mayor’s bill, without council approving a resolution

      Reply
  • November 28, 2015 at 7:22 pm
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    Ted: Maybe you are being too hard on council.
    These are part time positions. How can council or the mayor possibly research all these issues in depth themselves? Cannot they reasonably expect to be able to rely on staff to advise them?

    Reply
    • November 29, 2015 at 3:57 pm
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      ” too hard on council ” in a pigs eye.
      There is no too hard on anyone for willfully violating the Constitution and that is exactly what is Item # 25 contemplates – with a ex post facto resolution to sanction back billing customers for staff errors which is not supported by any current resolution, ordinance or statute. To see that this item was approved by the Finance Director, City Attorney, City Manager and Council tells us just how much this administration is aligned against city residents.
      The immediate answer here is for Council to impose meaningful responsibility and accountability, and stop playing into the Manager’s game of roping Council into sanctioning his every move which ensures worthwhile examinations of problems discovered later will occur just about as often as unicorns are seen bathing in the pond at City center.
      Beyond that Council needs to set clear standards that define a clear purpose, both of which are currently non-existent. When our 5 councilmen discuss items it is frequently impossible to deduce what Council the body has concluded. Developing and articulating a consensus of Council however limited it may be should be the job of the Mayor and not the Manager. The Manager is not meant to be one of the boys, nor should he be treated as such. The Manager is a hired hand with an important job to do, AND he is deserving of clear instruction as to how he is expected to do that job.
      Based on our first hand experience over the past 1/2 dozen years Council’s reliance on the Manager and his department heads and their crony consultants should be very limited.
      Ted Noftall

      Reply
  • November 29, 2015 at 5:34 pm
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    This kind of crap can only happen with government. Can you imagine Brighthouse sending you a bill for a years worth of high-speed internet because they had mistakenly billed you for standard internet? The city council would cry foul as soon as that happened, so how come they voted to let the thugs in the Accounting department get away with it? Maybe once you’re elected you become better than the rest of us?
    I looked at my City of Port Orange water bill and nowhere on it does it tell me what rate I am paying and why. Maybe Ted’s bill, being commercial, is more detailed but I doubt it. I would like to call the city and ask them about it but I’m afraid they will send me a revised bill with back charges.

    Reply
  • November 30, 2015 at 8:01 am
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    ” Maybe Ted’s bill, being commercial, is more detailed but I doubt it ”
    Commercial bills contain no more detail than residential bills AND NEITHER disclose all the charges and credits required to take you from one month end balance to the next consistently.
    Disclosing ALL the charges and credits that occurred during the month is Monthly Statement Preparation 101
    In most operations and certainly in the private sector monhly statements disclose all charges and credits, BUT NOT in Port Orange Finance — no no no there is always an excuse as to why something is not being done.
    .

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  • November 30, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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    .
    While we are still on water billing foolishness , below is a copy of an email I sent Ken Parker on Nov. 6, 2012.
    At a subsequent Council Meeting Ken Parker promised Councilman Ford that unnecessary mailers wound be discontinued when the new billing service took over.
    How’s that going, 3 years later …….
    Pat
    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    to kparker, agreen, bford, bpohlmann, dkennedy, dburnette, bcc: Henry, bcc: Ted 11/6/12
    Re; Stop the Water Billing Mailers
    Ken Parker
    ….I have been on the automatic Bank debit program with the City’s water billing office for about 15 years. Each month I receive a water bill via U.S snail mail that includes a pre-addressed City mailer envelope, notwithstanding there is nothing for me to mail back, thanks to the automatic debit program.

    During all those years I have put about 200 of the envelopes in the round file (waste basket). I assume there are thousands of water customers also on the automatic debit program doing the same each month.
    The pre-addressed mailer envelopes may only cost the City 10 or 20 cents apiece, but if you multiply my 200 envelopes by thousands of customers on automatic payments each month , we are now talking about some serious money.
    I have called the water billing office at least twice over the years , suggesting they could save some money by forgoing mailing me that envelope. After the answer I got the last time (about 5 years ago) I gave up.
    In light of recent events, perhaps you may be a little more sensitive to this waste in the water billing office, and consider fixing this money leak…. Pardon the pun !
    You most likely could also save additional city treasury, and some TREES by allowing water customers the option to go paperless, and view their billing history on Line or via email …. Pardon that Pun !
    Pat Nelan

     

     

    Reply

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