Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, May 25, 2012

Should heads roll over surprise budget shortfall?

Robinson-Briggs' breathtaking incompetence deserves its reward.

Plainfield's budget mess caused my phone to light up Thursday evening. The question now is: Should heads roll over the surprise $1.5 million budget shortfall?

Though I decided not to go to Thursday's budget hearing, I got an earful afterward, when it came to light that the state had flagged the submitted budget for errors and that the Robinson-Briggs administration had known about it since April 5 -- without telling the Council, the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, and maybe even its own budget consultant (and former acting city administrator) David Kochel.

For the skinny from one who attended the meeting, see Bernice's report here, where she details the E&O's (realestatespeak for 'errors and omissions'): personnel left out of the budget, salary increases not taken into account, insurance premiums incorrectly calculated and more.

And then there is the matter of the $5 million deferred pension payment due this year. (Mayor Robinson-Briggs opted in 2009 to defer a then-due pension payment until 2012 -- guess what, it's now 2012 and the money is due. Surprise!) How that will be handled is still not clear.

On top of all this, the honchos are absent: City Administrator Eric Berry is 'off until June 2' and Director of Administration and Finance Al Restaino is out due to his mother's surgery (though it is doubtful either would have been helpful; Restaino never has the answer to any question he is asked, and Berry always does a Hail Mary pass to someone else).

The budget proposal is arguably the most important item the Mayor is responsible for from year to year; it is what ensures the wheels go around -- for everything from salaries for secret employees like Mr. Muhammad to cellophane-wrapped candies for visitors waiting in her reception area.

The biggest load the Mayor's chief assistant, the City Administrator, must lift each year is assembling and shepherding the annual budget to passage by the City Council. Bar none.

How could Mayor Robinson-Briggs let the man take off at this crucial time? How could she hope to have a successful outcome to the budget process if someone fully prepared and fully informed weren't available for the Council's deliberations? (Mr. Jackson is a good soldier for stepping into the breach, but Berry and Mayor Robinson-Briggs are ultimately responsible.)

Worse still, if the Robinson-Briggs administration knew by April 5 of the state's questions about errors in the proposed budget, why is the Council finding out on May 24?

Did Mayor Robinson-Briggs keep her own budget consultant Dave Kochel in the dark also? Kochel is an honorable man and I find it difficult to believe he would have spent weeks at the Council's deliberations without bringing such relevant information to light -- if he knew about it.

Did City Administrator Berry know about the shortfall and decide to keep it from the Council? Or was he equally in the dark?

I have been told in the past that important documents come to City Hall addressed to Mayor Robinson-Briggs and then sit on her desk unread and unresponded to for weeks. Is it possible that the issues with the budget have been sitting on her desk in plain sight while she has been busy prancing and posturing about less important matters?

In any event, the budget process is delayed, the budget now exceeds the state's allowable increase cap (2%), too much of the year is past for much savings from trimming the budget, and the Council is left to resolve the Mayor's mess.

Whose head should roll for this incompetence? Berry's? Restaino's? Or Mayor Robinson-Briggs'?

Not much doubt about where I stand.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.


Anonymous said...

All of their HEADS have to ROLL. WOW they all MUST GO NOW. Assemblymen Green why dont you give the Mayor a JOB so she can step down and do this city a favor.

Bob said...

OFF WITH HER HEAD!!! I've said this many times and it still goes. This mayor is irresponsible and lazy. She may be the worst mayor we've had in history. If someone wants to get the guillotine out, I'll bring the popcorn. Anyone who trys to defend her on this needs to get a reality check and doesn't help her friend, Tracy Brown, get elected. Once again, thanks to her highness, Plainfield is the loser.

Anonymous said...

I am neither a democrat nor a republican. When I vote for someone it is because I am looking for new blood and fresh ideas, whether that individual is either of the two. The Citizens of Plainfield have been sitting on their hands for over thirty years. You either keep voting the same or let the same individual crooks and has beens get reelcted. It is time for a major change and the only way that is going to happen is by throwing incumbrnts out on the street. You all have let the Demcratic machine control Plainfield and Union County and all you do is talk. Starting with whoever whether it be Briggs or that Hack green it is time to stand up and be counted so vote them out of office and stop electing the same trash.

Anonymous said...

Th 2:29pm I say Amen!!!!