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Response #4 to Toledo Recall Petition Claims

The views, observations and opinions expressed in this Letter to the Editor reflect those of the submitter and do not necessarily reflect the views, observations or opinions of the staff, management or advertisers of Opposing views are cordially invited to be submitted to:

Response #4 to Toledo Recall Petition Claims – Mayor Billie Jo Smith, Toldeo

The recall petition that has been filed in Toledo makes 5 claims against Mayor Billie Jo Smith, and 4 against City Council President Terri Strom and Councilor Deanne Dunlap. Some of the claims are completely untrue. All are misleading and are the opinions of the individuals leading the recall.

The petitions against Terri Strom and Deanne Dunlap repeat the claims against the Mayor, and accuse them of supporting the Mayor. In fact, the Mayor and Councilors have been acting on the decisions of the City Council.

To respond to all of the claims in one article would make it too much to print and read. Also, some of the claims have several parts. To make this easier for readers, we are responding to only one of the claims at a time. This is the fourth of five in this series of responses. This claim is divided into two sections for the responses.

Recall Petition Claim:

Incompetent evaluation and recommendation of a deeply flawed annual budget. Failed to recognize numerous errors in the proposed budget as presented by City Manager Martin.

The Truth:
The 2018 – 2019 proposed budget was developed by our City Manager and Department Heads. The calculations and past expenditures were entered by our financial contractors from the Cascade West Council of Governments.
Initially, the financial contractors needed to train new staff for the Finance Department, try to familiarize themselves with the City’s Finances, and reorganize the use of our computerized system to take advantage of many features that had not been utilized in the past.

When they began helping to organize the new budget, the contractors discovered that much of the information they needed had not been entered into the system before the former Finance Director retired in December, 2017. They had to search for records in other hard copy and spreadsheet files and notebooks that were not clearly documented.

The first edition of the 2018-2019 budget was put together with incomplete information and was revised immediately, as needed information was located.
The proposed budget was carefully reviewed by the budget committee, and the committee Chair was a CPA, with governmental budget experience.

The Budget Committee met five times this year. Four of the meetings were planned, as the meetings in the past had been rushed, with many questions unanswered. This year the committee members heard detailed explanations of each account from the Department Heads in charge of them. The fifth meeting was to provide time to consider and make any needed budget adjustments due to public testimony.

The former Finance Director, and community members she had provided with information, presented possible errors in the calculations and criticized the changes in format of the new budget. This input was presented as a criticism of the City Manager, and was not provided to him ahead of time in a manner that would have shown a desire to be helpful.

All public input was carefully examined, and many corrections and changes were made in later editions of the budget.

The budget that was approved by the Budget Committee and ultimately by the Council is a good one. It meets the criteria for a good budget, in that it appropriates necessary funds and provides the framework for expenditures this next fiscal year. It also is a conservative budget, as overall the budget expenditures are approximately a million dollars less than that of the last fiscal year. This means that our City Manager is planning ahead for possible budget constraints in the future.

A budget is an estimate, a working document. It can be adjusted during the year if new information or needs arise. Such adjustments may be necessary when the City receives the results of the much delayed 2016-2017 audit, which was submitted by the former Finance Director. The City will then be able to submit the 2017-2018 financial records for auditing of the financial data and financial systems. The documentation that was left when the Finance Director retired cannot be reconciled between the City’s official financial system and the additional methods of documentation that were used in the past.

Publicly insulted citizens who pointed out problems.

The Truth:
The members of the public were treated respectfully by the budget committee, although some of the public comments were accusatory and presented in a negative manner. The speakers were thanked, and the information they provided was taken.

All of the information presented by the public was carefully examined by the City Manager and the City’s financial department, and budget changes were made, where appropriate.

Most, if not all, of the public speakers were using information provided to them by the former Finance Director.

It was discovered that the Fire Chief had violated city policies and provided the former Finance Director with a copy of the City’s complete financial record files. The files contain information that is protected by law from public view. She could have obtained this information legally through a public records request, and the confidential information would have been redacted. The City’s financial contractors also had discovered that during the last five months of the former Finance Director’s employment with the City, a large amount of critical financial information had not been documented or entered into the city’s official financial records; tax receipts had not been recorded, and the bank accounts had not been balanced. Municipal Court receipts had not been recorded, causing unfair penalties to be imposed on individuals.

The Finance Director of the Cascades West Council of Governments, contracted to provide the City’s financial services, provided the Budget Committee with a printed list of the financial information and documentation that had not been recorded during the last five months of the former Finance Director’s tenure with the City.

The Mayor read this list aloud at the Budget Committee meeting. The list did not place blame, it simply factually stated what had been found. During the entire reading of the list, the former Finance Director and the former City Recorder were openly laughing with each other.

Many of the problems being brought forward by the former Finance Director and her supporters were caused by this lack of documentation and the difficulties our finance contractors were having in trying to accurately fill in these huge gaps.

The question of who was responsible for recording the information listed was asked. The answer was that it was the responsibility of the Finance Director.
Later in the meeting, the former City Recorder stood up and criticized the Mayor for insulting a former City staff member (the former Finance Director) in public.

The Mayor had only read the document that had been given to the Budget Committee.

Submitted by Toledo Mayor Billie Jo Smith


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