Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What is it with Recreation and money?

'Murky' is probably the best description that can be mustered for the relationship between Plainfield's Division of Parks and Recreation and money, and it proved to be true at Tuesday's special Council meeting, where several questions were raised about funding of Recreation items.

The provision of a line-item version of the 3-month temporary budget appropriation in the publicly distributed agendas stirred considerable interest among attendees -- and Councilors.

Acting City Administrator Kochel and CFO Zilinksi were asked specifically by the Council to provide a breakout of the details behind the $44,000 item titled 'Independence Day, Other Expense', a line item disbursed through the Rec Division.

There was also some back-and-forth over several items covering 'seasonal employees' and 'summer pool program' salaries and wages. A little math-in-the-margin of my handout showed the City putting up $269,000 in salaries and wages for seasonal employees for the next three months only. Would the Council's budget deliberations be better informed if that number were looked at in detail? (Something for the Citizens Budget Advisory Comittee to consider asking about?)

Then there was a further $49,700 earmarked for 'Other Expenses' for the Rec Division for the next three months? Again, details would no doubt be helpful for the Council and the CBAC.

The recent auditor's findings cited, yet again, the perennial problem of the Recreation Division's handling of cash receipts. The auditor's specific point is that Rec consistently fails to make deposits within the required statutory time limit (48 hours). Worse, I have been told by City Hall sources the
loosey-goosey handling of cash receipts raises questions about whether monies have gone astray. Surely the Robinson-Briggs administration should want this situation straightened out?

Perhaps most interesting of all is the little 'Prior Years Bills' item for $63,331.51 tucked in near the end of the temp budget appropriation.

Pressed by Councilor Mapp, CFO Zilinski and Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson allowed as how this covered claims for unpaid bills by T&M, one of the city's engineering firms, going back to 2003.

Asked point-blank by Mapp if this was the amount publicly alleged to have been held up for payment by Councilor Storch in recent campaign literature attacking him, Williamson claimed ignorance, as did Zilinski who reminded all he has only been here a few months.

But Zilinski did give a peek at the details, saying the dispute involved work the firm says it performed for the Planning Division, Public Works, and -- are you ready for this? -- Recreation.

My preliminary inquiries about these items after Tuesday's meeting indicate that the largest portion of the outstanding bills (some $42,000) traces back to work done for Recreation and DPW, and that though various meetings were held between the parties, including one put together by former DPWUD Director Jennifer Wenson Maier, Recreation never supplied the documentation to back up its claim and the Robinson-Briggs administration failed to aggressively pursue the matter.

Perhaps the Council can finally get the Administration off the dime and get this long-standing dispute resolved.

One way to proceed might be for the Council to break the problem into bite-sized pieces, and dispose of the easiest parts first.

This would leave any goldbricks to the last -- and the public spotlight.

-- Dan Damon

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Rob said...

again with you "needing" accountability Dan...haven't you learned yet?? Any call for fiscal accountability out of the recreation department alone is call for the troops to rise up and storm city hall. Why don't we just set a limit of say...mmmmm...$20,000 for the problem amount and let the recreation department play with any amount up to that unaccounted for so that we can save time for all. Put it in black and white that the rec department can piss away $20,000 and there will be no issue with it. Taxpayers be damned! That should make the Mayor happy.

Bob said...

I guess when I've said the mayor is playing loosey goosey with our money, I wasn't far from the point. She seems to be allowing others in her administration to do this with our money.

Bob Bolmer

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the story, but expecting the CBAC (does it actually exist?) to be given any detail on parts of the budget that are deliberately mysterious is fantasy, as is expecting the council to force the issue with any meaningful action. Just more of the same endless drudge of DiverCity USA politics.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan,

Just to let you know, the CBAC last year asked for a breakout of programs indicating how many children attended programs, the names so as to account for redundancy, and the money alocated for each program. We never received the information.

Our hope is that with a CFO on board, we will be able to get the information requested.


Karen Glencamp-Daniel said...

I'm sure no one is surprised over the Rec issue and money. Here's a thought when you want to pay for a rec program put in place that you can only pay by checks and m.o.

Here's a questions maybe someone can answer how much was this year's 4th of July parade? for the 20 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Does the auditors check the receipt books vs cash turned in? How about a real forensic audit of the Recreation books by an authority beyond this Administration. How about some real consequences for real wrongdoing. The superintendent has to be dragged in kicking and screaming to sit before anyone who wants to hold him accountable. He comes down with convenient illnesses to avoid any preceived "hot seat". At some point there has to be at least a charge of insubordination. Alhough I suspect there are many other charges possible.

Dwayne said...

Troubling at best.

This city would be well served if CBAC and other groups - are empowered to do their jobs.

Accountability and transparency is imperative if you are serving in public office.

Oversight needs to happen now to protect taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

To 10:04am - yes we do exist. We will be launching our blog for this year's budget which will be challenging. If you have interest in being on the CBAC, contact your council person. In any event, when the CBAC blog is up and running, please send us your thoughts.


Laker said...

If T & M says the City still owes it money from 2003 and continues to do work for the City it must: 1. Be crazy or 2. Making such a mound of cash that if they get it or not it will still be fat City once again for the consultants.

Anonymous said...

If you're all so indignant about how your money is being spent, stop paying your taxes. Quit whining and organize. Remember rent strikes? If enough residents just refuse to play along, the games have to stop. So get together, come up with a list of demands, open an escrow account with a TRUSTWORTHY executor, and put your money where your mouth is. You think you can all get thrown out? Hardly.
As long as you go along with the game, the game will go on.