Image of ISB check to City for $15,000 with explanatory memo.
Though Robinson-Briggs chose not to attend the City Council's special meeting Wednesday evening looking into the $20,000 WBLS payment, there is no doubt she was the metaphorical 'elephant in the room', and the question arose as to what Investors thought the check was for and the use to which Mayor Robinson-Briggs put it.
But let's begin at the beginning.
The meeting was called to order by Council President Annie McWilliams at 8:15 PM with Councilor Reid the only member not in attendance and promptly dispatched its only other item of business, a resolution granting permission for the Plainfield High School marching band to march in the street from the high school building to Hub Stine Field for home games. (Was the omission of the pledge to the flag an oversight or by design?)
The Council then went into executive session with its special attorney, Ramon Rivera, and resumed the public meeting about fifteen minutes later.
Rivera outlined the procedure for the evening, stating that the meeting was neither a hearing nor a trial, but was 'an interview' which he would conduct on behalf of the Council.
He then outlined the circumstances of who had been served (or attempted to serve) subpoenas --
- Bibi Taylor, former City Administrator
- Dan Williamson, Corporation Counsel
- Sandra Cummings, Acting CFO (at the time)
- David Spaulding, Purchasing Agent
- Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs
A certified court stenographer, using 21st century methods,
kept a record of the proceedings.
Ms. Taylor carefully outlined the sequence of events from when she first learned of the community forum (at a July 21st cabinet meeting) to the Mayor's frantic and curse-filled efforts on Friday July 30th to get a check cut.
Highlights included --
- Mayor Robinson-Briggs making a call to Union County Prosecutor Romankow seeking funds (none were forthcoming);
- Confusion over how many checks were needed (two were initially proposed), the amounts of each ($16,000 and $4,000), what they were for and the payees (WBLS and WLIB);
- Audit & Control staff searching for available funds;
- Purchasing agent Spaulding failing to return Taylor's calls seeking information;
- Instructions by Mayor Robinson-Briggs to Taylor in a 1:47 PM call on July 30 to use cell phones only, not city lines (because conversations would be retrievable?);
- A 'carnival of errors' scenario in identifying available unencumbered funds -- finally zeroing in on the Information Technology budget;
- Mayor Robinson-Briggs' initial refusal to sign Taylor's memo documenting the situation (calling it a 'CYA' -- cover your ass -- memo).
To me, the most dramatic moments were when Mr. Rivera showed Ms. Taylor several documents, asking her to identify what sort they were, who signed them and their place in the whole matter -- including a purchase order signed by IT Director Chris Payne and Mayor Robinson-Briggs.
Rivera also produced a copy of a check from Investors Savings Bank, dated July 30, in the amount of $15,000 and payable to the City of Plainfield, Division of Parks & Recreation, with a memo of 'Plainfield Rec/Br 06 7/4 Sponsorship'.
Rivera said that he had spoken with a representative of Investors Savings Bank Wednesday afternoon, who confirmed that the check was for fireworks for the July 4th celebrations.
And that, it seems to me, is where everything now gets interesting.
Did Investors know Mayor Robinson-Briggs would apply the money to the WBLS event or not?
If not, did Mayor Robinson-Briggs misappropriate the funds or defraud ISB?
I think it certain that Mayor Robinson-Briggs and any others who are interviewed by Mr. Rivera will want to do so in executive session.
So, we must trust Rivera will get to the bottom of everything the Council needs to know and that the Council will evaluate any further steps that may need to be taken carefully and with an eye to the greater public good.
- Some of the previous coverage of the WBLS matter on Plainfield Today --
- 07/12/2011: "Exasperated, Council President uses the 'E' word"
- 03/14/2011: "WBLS Affair: Who gave that $15,000?"
- 12/18/2010: "Robinson-Briggs gets free (negative) publicity on 101.5 FM"
- 08/11/2010: "$20,000 for WBLS at Town Hall?"
- 08/10/2010: "Questionable spending uncovered by Council" -- First look at WBLS matter.