The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Council-Administration volleys continue


It was reminiscent of a set between two real pros.
City Administrator Bibi Taylor is arguably the best player Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has had amongst the overabundance of administrators and department heads that have shuffled through her administration's revolving doors in a reign that is approaching the end of its fifth year.

But even Taylor, poised, formidable, and well-informed though she is, gives way before the quiet, persistent lobbing of questions by Council President Annie McWilliams.

This was evident in the back-and-forth over why the Robinson-Briggs administration is still not ready to present a budget to the Council, which was expecting an early September introduction per an earlier quasi-commitment by the Robinson-Briggs administration.

Taylor apologized to the Council, saying the budget document was not ready for public distribution, owing to delays in getting the annual financial statement (AFS).

McWilliams' inquiry about the delay elicited the response that there were 'difficulties closing out fiscal year 2010'.

Which prompted McWilliams to ask what kind of difficulties.

To which Taylor responded that there were problems with reconciling the General Ledger and the subsidiary ledgers.

Further questioning by McWilliams brought out that these ledgers are supposed to be reconciled on a monthly basis (which, presumably, would leave the final, annual reconciliation a simple task).

The discussion seemed to indicate that a budget document has, indeed, been prepared, but is being withheld from circulation -- to the Council or the public.

After more back and forth about when the budget might be submitted, McWilliams got Taylor to say she hope to have it in the Council's hands by the end of the month.

Asked directly by Councilor Mapp who authorizes the budget document for distribution, Taylor replied 'the Mayor'.

Her point made, McWilliams moved the discussion along, refraining from making Taylor further defend Robinson-Briggs' performance on the budget issue.

During a report by Councilor Storch on the status of the Council's resolution asking state intervention in the continuing CFO crisis (guess what, they at first couldn't find it!), he reported that the DCA was expected to get back to the city by the end of this week.

City Administrator Taylor offered that the Robinson-Briggs administration was working on two options in relation to the CFO and expected a resolution 'within a month' -- the first being a candidate (unnamed) who is being vetted presently, the alternative would be to find a firm to carry out the CFO responsibilities.

At this point Council President McWilliams explained to the public how previous efforts at confirming two earlier candidates got derailed -- in one case, she said, the candidate made statements during the Council's interview that were found disturbing and that led the Council not to consent to the appointment; in the second case, requested work references have not been forthcoming to date. All of this was by way of quietly upping the ante on the Robinson-Briggs administration in the continuing search for a CFO.

Councilor Linda Carter's report on the City & Neighborhood Services committee sparked a lengthy -- at times heated -- discussion on concerns with the Recreation Division.

When DPWUD Director David Brown apologized for not having a report from the Recreation Committee for the Council despite two meetings in September at which he said Director Wynn had supplied information requested by the Committee, he offered that he was very busy with the budget preparations and expected to meet with the committee 'tomorrow' (today).

No sooner had Brown sat down than Recreation Committee chairperson Wayne Wilkins arrived. Invited by Council President McWilliams to update the Council, he said the committee had indeed received a packet from Wynn, but found it 'very difficult to figure out'.

After considerable back and forth, Councilor Mapp opined that despite continued pressure from the Council to move ahead, it appears that the Robinson-Briggs administration was engaged in an 'effort to slow down real reform' of the delivery of recreation services to the city's young people.

Though Councilor Carter objected to this characterization, McWilliams said she sensed a growing consensus among the Council that things were NOT working out with the Robinson-Briggs administration resolving issues between the Division and the committee, and that she was of a mind to advance the proposed ordinance to establish a Recreation COMMISSION, which would have broad powers of supervision over the Recreation Division's program and budget.

At this point, City Administrator Taylor played the only card seemingly left in the administration's hand, a plea for more time. Inadvertently or not, this ploy played exactly to Mapp's complaint about slowing down the process.

The tension in the room was relieved when Councilor Mapp quipped that if he ever had to hire a city administrator, he didn't think he could do better than Ms. Taylor. At which point the audience broke into applause.

The whole evening was rather like watching a set between Serena and Venus Williams.

The match is to be continued next Tuesday at the Council's business meeting (Monday is Columbus Day).



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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4 comments:

Bob said...

I am glad that most of the City Council is trying to be responsible to the tax payers and citizens of Plainfield. I'm also glad the Councilor Mapp recognized the good job and bad situation of Ms. Taylor. I hope the pressure does some good and this mayor gets her act together. Don't hold your breath, but I'm an optimist.

Blackdog said...

Our Very Own Soap Opera - "As the Stomach Turn"!

Anonymous said...

What a big waste of taxpayer time. All we do is fight, fight and fight.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it. You will NOT get any cooperation from the mayor. she is self serving, small minded and not qualified to make her own decisions.
It's one thing to run your household in that manner, it's totally different to "run" a city that same way.
Linda Carter... she will run "with the administration" after all is said and done because she needs their support in order to run for freeholder.