Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Tuesday night, at another marathon meeting, the commission considered the pressing issue of finance.  It's dire.  NBV has spent all of the money in the operational reserve. There are two other reserve accounts, one for infrastructure emergencies and one for utility emergencies, but the operational reserve is where money for unanticipated spending such as lawsuits, back pay for wrongfully fired employees, severance packages for retiring employees, moving office, and hiring new interim managers is.   All of it is gone.  From $1.2 million to $0 in 2 years.  

The mayor has been encouraging people to be positive and do things, an odd request since being positive and doing things is what got the city in this fix.  I suspect she means be cheerful and pretend things are going well.   Optimistic assertions contradicted by actual facts are not being positive, they are merely delusional.  When your car runs out of gas, no amount of positive thinking will get it running.  Only petroleum will.   When you are out of cash, you don't need a smile and a cheerful disposition, you need bucks.   

It's this sort of cheerless optimism that led us to this point.  The finance director, Bert Wrains, has brought a new level of transparency to our accounting and it was he who explained that the over spend was the result of the Police and Legal actions.  Specifically:
  • The Police Department lost two cases brought by employees who were wrongfully terminated, resulting in paybacks over  $200,000 to the officers fired for political reasons.  
  • The Police Department failed to budget for anyone retiring and when one detective did, it cost $108,000 for accumulated vacation time.  (Apparently the detective in question never took a vacation in 12 years.)  
  • The Police Department incurred $50,000 in overtime expenses as there are a record number of employees claiming sick leave while keeping one of the reinstated officers at home with full pay but not on duty because the chief doesn't care for him.   
  • The Police Department fought these cases against legal advice and against the commission advice, incurring nearly $175,000 in legal bills for cases that were bound to lose.  
  • The Police Department is about to settle $25,000 on an officer who sued because his feelings were hurt, but nothing else, when he failed to report a fistfight he was in.   On the postive side and just to show there are no hard feelings, the chief made the complainant "Officer of the Year."    
But when it comes to the police, the commission is blinded by positivity.   It's cringeworthy.  One small example, at Tuesday's meeting, the police chief, without an ounce of shame, told the commission that he was too busy after his two week vacation to review the crime stats, but he hoped they were in their packet.  Well, they were and the commissioners were not too busy to take five minutes and review them.   

Instead of calling the chief out for his complete lack of interest in providing his bosses with even the pretense of work, they fell over each other to compliment the chief that felonies were down by 2 in the last month.  The Chief responded far too modestly that the credit belonged not to him but to the force and the community.  It was far too modest of him as clearly the crime rate falls whenever he takes some of his five week per year vacation time.  

I started out talking about the transparent accounting  and it is so much better than it was.   But the reporting needs to be clearer.  We are not over budget because things happened to us.  We are over budget because decisions have been made, some good, some poor, but we are not the victims of circumstance.   If the reporting were better, the cost overruns for legal would be properly reported as police department expenditures.   With that clear knowledge, we know where to look for savings. 

Tonight, the commission is meeting to discuss capping our tax rate at 9.1, the highest in the history of North Bay Village, nearly double our current rate of 4.772.   The police have asked for an additional $1.2 million and that accounts for the bulk of it.  I can't be at tonight's meeting but I am watching this closely.  

Unless the commission loses their rose colored glasses, the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.   You can't pay for things with unicorns and happy dust.  It's time to cut off the spigot.  

Kevin Vericker
July 18, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mario Garcia's blog does a great job of breaking down last night's interim manager meeting.   You should click here to read it in detail.  

The process was wrong.  Commissioner Duvall couldn't be there as the "special" meeting was scheduled while she was in the hospital giving birth.  She wrote about her worries that this was being done hastily saying "Even though this is an interim position wouldn't this have called for interviews from the commission and possibly including other candidates?" and list the questions that were not asked last night.  

Richard Chervony was more blunt stating that the meeting was called hastily to avoid discussion and consideration of the hire.  He sharply criticized the Lim-Kreps for calling the meeting as an emergency, noting there are 4 scheduled meetings already set in July, and wondering aloud if Sunshine had been violated.   

The three other commissioners were defensive on the subject, dismissing Chervony and ignoring Duvall's concerns, with the mayor adding that Chervony would benefit from reading books about positive things.   That was weird. 

The criticism of the process, the rush to move this forward, was unanimous from the public.  Nobody at any point was criticizing the current interim manager nor raising concerns about  the candidate.  Simply, it was concern about rushing the process rather than wait five days for the regular meeting and give all five of the commissioners to properly interview.  Remember this is the same commission that deferred appointing boards because the Vice Mayor was out of town yet on this critical appointment, did it without a full commission.   

It's not good.  Again, read Mario's Blog for the full coverage.  

Kevin Vericker
July 12, 2013  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Maybe This Time...

The Mayor and Vice Mayor are calling a special meeting for Thursday July 11. at 7:30 PM to appoint another "interim" Village Manager.  The search for a permanent one has hit a wall since, seriously, who wants to sacrifice their career in North Bay Village?  

Right now the city is being capably led by the Deputy Village Manager, but once again we are falling into the old pattern of believing the next one is the right one.  

The candidate is Frank Rollason and you can see his impressive resume at this village website.  Mr. Rollason may very well be a good choice to lead the village for a while but his chances of success are slim.   

Don't forget he's hobbled by the same contract that gives our grandstanding, political operative police chief immunity from supervision which has killed the budget, and he will be reporting to the same commission as the others.   And this commission has not shown much leadership.   

Kevin Vericker
July 9, 2013