Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Citizens For Accountability Target Morristown, Hamblen County Government

Some local residents have decided the city and county government in Morristown and Hamblen County needs some rigorous oversight and dedicated input to improve how they function.

Citizens for Accountability has launched a website to provide information about how these local governments operate, where they have failed and what needs to be done to improve conditions overall. WBIR offered a small feature on their efforts in their Tuesday news report.

One comment from that report by interim city administrator Lynn Wampler stands out -- that to get accurate information about city government, residents should attend the council meetings rather than visit the CFA website. However, with the meeting time of 4 pm, it's a tough to schedule or plan to attend.

What to do to change that? A very simple act, something the city has refused to do, is to record and replay the meetings for broadcast on the local cable Government and Education Channel. The county government has been doing this for years. The city refuses to participate or even investigate how to use very ordinary technology to inform and educate the public.

Why? Why not allow for meetings to be rebroadcast? Why allow only after-the-fact reporting from local media of city meetings?

Maybe the city council and mayor and city administrator want to keep their actions cloaked and obscured because what has been taking place has not been legal under state guidelines ....

Writer and blogger Linda Noe offers some perspective on the current financial mess in the city at the CFA website:

This year the City is “caught” with a 6/30/09 deficit that it can’t erase with another illegal, unauthorized loan. While there is no official loan, the auditors are apparently going to report that “$1 Million + is due from the General Fund to the Sewer Fund” and “$1 Million + is due to the Sewer Fund from the General Fund.” Sounds like a loan but it just doesn’t use the word loan. When state officials get the city’s audit, they will likely see and know what’s going on this time and report that the city is in violation of state law.

This three-year fiasco highlights a number of serious problems at the City Center:

1. Auditors that have allowed illegal, unauthorized loans (Sewer Fund to General Fund) for 2007 and 2008 without reporting them to the Mayor and Council.
2. Budget and Finance Personnel who have been a party to these illegal, unauthorized loans without reporting or seeking approval of the Mayor and Council.
3. A former City Administrator who was a major player in these illegal, unauthorized loans without reporting or seeking the approval of the Mayor and Council.
4. A Mayor and Councilmembers who did not take the time to examine the yearly audits, ask questions, and get answers. [The cash poor condition of the General Fund was evident in the audits--but you had to actually open the audit and look at a few key pages to see that unauthorized loans were being recorded in the audits to "cover up" the dire financial condition of the City].

Elected office is not just a fancy title with a nameplate and special parking place. It is a high calling when you are entrusted with other people’s money. Elected officials ask to be put into office. If given the opportunity to serve, they have an obligation to give whatever time it takes and to do whatever is necessary to see that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and legally."

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