Speak Out Loud NA

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Missing in Action!!!

Hello, I wanted to give folks an update since I've been AWOL all-day.

Today was my birthday, and I've not been allowed within 6 ft. of the computer under any circumstances (well there was 1).
However, I am now back home and the day is done (finally).
I have also been given this brief opportunity to explain my disappearance, on the condition that I would admit, I have indeed incurred the wrath of another B-Day, and, that's all I have to say on the matter.
There was no deal that required me to give my age (hee hee).
- - Gotta watch those details, we keep tryin' to tell 'em.- -
We will be back on-line with a new posting by lunch time tomorrow.
Has anyone seen the complete & 'Final' Sanitation Contract?!
Fascinating Stuff.
We'll take a closer look at the Sewer Fund details, and also the pending unfair, inequitable, Stormwater "user-fee" (???) we'll all be paying after the inerim period.
Then we'll delve thru a little more of the Audit findings.
After all that, we'll play connect the dots... a simple childs game that eventually portrays the WHOLE PICTURE.
Hope everyone had a great summer day, I think I actually saw a few sunburns out there. GO FOR IT!!!
What a gorgeous gift from the Universe!
Yep, just reassurance that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
Nobody's going to make me feel bad about that, and nobody's gonna get a "do-over". The facts are what they are.
Some people have been following all this thru many, many administrations. Others, just recently jumped in.
But we are all here to stay.
Deal With It.
Nighty, night.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Important Findings of 2004 Audit

The previous posting, which spoke briefly of the finding in the 2004 audit of the City of New Albany, was left open for citizens to discuss what they felt were pertinent issues that merited further discussions.
As we all know, there was little mention of the actual audit findings, but rather a plethora of various perceptions of the Administration and their competence, or lack thereof, as well as a lot of unnecessary personal and political bickering.
Before we delve further into the 2004 Audit, we would like to reiterate our stance that this blog is for the Citizens of New Albany, and will not be used as a platform for any political campaigning.
That said, let's move forward with the 2004 Audit written report, which is a public document produced by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
On page 4, 4th paragraph, of the Independent Auditor's report on financial statements, they note:
"We were unable to audit the note disclosure relating to capital assests of the City, because capital asset records were not properly maintatined and updated; and we were unable to satisfy ourselves as to the value of the capital assets by other auditing procedures. In addition, we were unable to verify the accuracy of cash and investment balances because monthly cash reconcilements were never compared to the funds ledger so that variances could be identified and corrected in a timely manner."
They further note; "The Wastewater Utility did not maintain sufficient capital asset records. Due to lack of supporting documentation, capital asset valuation cannot be verified." Nahhhhhhhh, not the Sewer Utility!
Surely, with all the other departments that were being supported by Sewer Funds, and all the "loans" that were made out of Sewer Funds, surely they were keeping accurate and detailed records of all such expenditures.
"In addition, we were unable to verify the accuracy of cash and investment balances because monthly cash reconcilements were never compared to the funds ledger so that variances could be identified and corrected in a timely manner."
Well now, doesn't that just take the cake, so to speak? Only in this instance, the cake is made of the hard earned money of the rate payers.
What does all this mean?
"As capital assets and cash equivalents constitute a major portion of the Statement of Net Assets, any uncertainty concerning assets and cash and cash equilvalents similarly affects the Statement of Net Assets."
In other words, because no one managed to do the monthly balancing of the City's books, and reconcile the funds ledger, they really can't tell what the City has in terms of the bottom line.
One other statement early in the report that raises concerns is as follows:
"The City has not presented Management's Discussion and Analysis or Budgetary Comparison Schedules that the Governmental Accounting Standards Board has determined is necessary to supplement, although not required to be part of, the basic financial statements."
Folks, we are only up to page 5 of 55 pages of the 2004 Audit.
There is so much more to look at, but we are going to stop here for today.
When we resume we will be looking at the problems associated with drawing Department funds down below a zero balance, or "Disbursements in Excess of Appropriations".
As we mentioned in a previous posting, the State guidelines say no departments may make expenditures in excess of their appropriated budget. However, New Albany has several departments that show spending indeed exceeded the budgeted amounts for those departments. Namely, the General Fund (duh), Motor Vehicle Highway, Local Road and Street (no, we're not kidding), Park Nonreverting, Ambulance Runs, and Park Cummulative Building.
The total excess spending for these funds was just over $1.7 million dollars.
The Audit notes: "These disbursements were funded by inappropriate available cash balances."
Perhaps you will recall our earlier expressed frustrations with what we termed "mis-appropriated funds".
Only 50 pages left to go!
Hang in there New Albany, things will get better. We will accept nothing less.

Well, we have some more information we would like to share with folks before we turn out the lights tonight.
After perusing through the pages of numbers, looking at balances and debt, disbursements and income, assets and liabilities, we turned our attention to the Audit results and comments concerning the condition of records (pg.38).
There we discovered the profound cumulative effects of the propensity of City Departments to repeatedly fail to reconcile cash accounts monthly with the City funds ledgers.
Such instances are more fully described later in this posting; However, our purpose here is to explore the consequences of such oversights, or simple non-compliance with proper accounting procedures.
As revealed in the documents of Findings and Questioned Costs (pg. 52), the Audit found problems with the condition of City records (2004-1).
The Audit notes: “…reconciled amounts were not totaled and compared to actual cash transactions recorded in the City’s records. As a result of undetected errors as of Dec. 31, 2004, the City [had] $88,947 more in unidentified cash recorded in its records than [was] being held in its bank accounts.”
Folks, that’s almost $90,000 in cash that is unaccounted for. Money that should be among one or more of the City’s seventeen (yes, 17) bank accounts.
In “Notes To Financial Statements”, on pg. 17, item I-C notes: "The government –wide, governmental fund , internal service fund and fiduciary fund financial statements are reported using the basis of accounting that demonstrates compliance with the cash basis and budget laws of the State of Indiana…. Receipts are recorded when received and disbursements are recorded when paid.” Doesn’t sound too terribly difficult to us. How about you?
Back to page 38, concerning the Condition of Records, Indiana Code 5-13-6-1(e) states: “All local investment officers shall reconcile at least monthly the balance of public funds, as disclosed by the records of the local officers, with the balance statements provided by the respective depositories.
These comments go on to explain: “At all times, the manual and/or computerized records, subsidiary ledgers, control ledgers, and reconciled bank balance should agree. If the reconciled bank balance is less than the subsidiary or control ledgers, then the responsible official or employee may be held personally responsible for the amount needed to balance the fund. (Accounting and Uniform Compliance Guidelines Manual for Cities and Towns, Chapter 7)”.
How ‘bout them apples?
Don’t worry, there’s lots more to come.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The 2004 Audit Findings

The City Audit for 2004 is nothing short of a horror story. The inaccuracies and the ineptitude it points out are only the tip of a vary large iceberg. The City of New Albany is, quite unfortunately, symbolicly the 'Titanic' that has crashed into this mountain of mismanagment, misappropriations, and mishandling of City finances and functionality.
We are now left 'dead in the water', with damages that are so devestating it will indeed take years to correct. That is about the only true statement made by Mayor Garner at the last Council Meeting. The rest of his blubbering "it's not my fault", and "it's because of the past administrations", just doesn't cut it with us, the people of the inner-city who are taking the hit for every bad decision and mis-step this Administration has taken.
Economic development is at a standstill due to the unwillingness to adhere to a Federal and State agreements to make critical repairs to the sanitary sewage system, and every day that passes bring us closer to the moment our ship will slip beneath the cold, dark waters of the abyss. Who knows how many will survive?
How many souls have disappeared from our City? Just look around at all the "For Sale" and "For Rent" signs that are littering the landscape. It's all that's left of a once proud little City that chugged along with residents who lived their entire lives in homes that now house renters, or have been left to rot from neglect.
Now, we are presented with a City Audit that clearly shows the dismal failures of the leadership of the our City.
We have multiple issues we intend to address over the course of the next few days, but for now we are going to leave things here and allow folks to start commenting on the issues they feel are most important.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Citizen's Advocate Sets Record Straight

We have received a request by citizen Valla Ann Bolovschak to print an account of the events that transpired prior to her presentation at last Thursday's City Council meeting. We are granting her request in the spirit of cooperation and truthfulness, as well as the appreciation we have for her as one who truly had the best interests of the citizens of New Albany at heart with her actions.
As most folks already know, and for those who don't, Ms. Bolovschak spent her own time and her own money, out of her own fortitude, to obtain a copy of the recently released 2004 State Audit of the City's finances.
She spoke at the meeting about several points of concern contained in the audit, and subsequently supplied a copy to every Council Member present.
Since the meeting, and even a bit during the meeting, false accusations have been made about certain members of the Council working in tandem with Ms. Bolovschak in an effort to embarrass or humiliate the Mayor by producing the Audit.
The key words here are FALSE ACCUSATIONS.
We provided a link to Freedom of Speech where CM Schmidt submitted a written response to the allegations against him. We encourage everyone to read CM Schmidt's letter, and to consider why a particular group of citizens constantly slander and attack select Council Members that they commonly refer to as "the gang of four".
If there are "agendas" to be found in the actions and words of anyone, those agendas are becoming clearer by the day, and they are being advanced by the progressives who are laying the groundwork to discredit the "gang of four" CM's they want to see unseated in the next election.
Yet, it is these same Council Members, along with a handfull of concerned citizens who have done a great job trying to protect the citizens of New Albany from a dreadfully incompetent Mayor who weasels his way out of every bad situation he creates by blaming everybody and everything but the phases of the moon for any negative outcomes.
I expect soon we'll even hear that as well because he's running out of folks who are willing to take the hit for him.
Because of the increasing severity of the ramifications of Mayor Garner's incompetence, I am more than happy to help in the efforts to "set the record straight", so folks can recognize the likely potential that, left unchallenged, our current Mayor will take this town apart at the seams and leave us all swimming in sewage muck while he runs off with pockets full of our money.
Therefore, what follows is the series of events that led to Ms. Bolovschak's actions at last Thursday's City Council session, as well as other instances that were adulterated with political spin which led to misunderstandings, mis-information, and flat out misrepresentations of the facts and truths of the matters:

As you know, I am not a blogger, but appreciate you printing this as I am disgusted to see the never ending blame game being played out again, accusing others of being behind my actions.
I returned a phone call to Mark Seabrook late Thursday afternoon about the “State Street Live” item on the agenda, and asked him if he’d seen the 2004 audit and he said he hadn’t. I also ran into Dan Coffey that afternoon downtown, passing on Main Street, heading in opposite directions in our cars, and asked him if he’d seen it and he told me that he had heard it was not pretty. That is the complete extent to which I “discussed” what I had. I didn’t. I acted on my own with regard to the audit presentation and I trust the council was honest in their response to my question, Have you seen it? Nobody said they had and they all appeared to be as shocked as I was when I read it. I have no reason to think otherwise since the mayor claimed not to have seen a copy either. Why would he think that any of them would have been able to get a copy of it before he did and why does he forever blame an elderly person or weaker person with health problems for his errors and/or my doings? I expected this reaction from him because he uses this cowardly method to deflect attention away from himself consistently.
The following examples I have on tape:
--I wrote the “Good Grief” e-mail he blamed on Anna Schmidt and I spoke up and took responsibility for it. The person that sent it to Tony Toran knows that it came from me and me alone and so did the mayor and Tony Toran because Tony Toran called me about it that same day. Knowing full well the e-mail came from me, he blamed it on Anna Schmidt anyway, like the coward he is.
--When I brought up the matter of malfeasance and misappropriations it was directed at the mayor and he turned that into some grand attack on Mrs. Garry who was NOT the object of my discontent. The mayor was the reason I asked for an audit, and the 2004 audit certainly supports the dire need for one. However, acting in his normal cowardly fashion, he shoved the burden of this condemnation onto Kay. Any man that would allow those people, with enough problems of their own, who are doing what they are told, and force them to shoulder the burden of his problems is a real chump. You don’t throw your soldiers out in the path of an oncoming bulldozer. You should be man enough and skilled enough, to stop it yourself, because that is what noble, successful leaders do. Watching Mrs. Gary’s husband and daughter standing up to speak for her was one of the most depressing experiences I have had at council and it speaks volumes as to the sort of character he has.
--Rather than face the fact that the people’s finances are a complete train wreck, he once again chooses some innocent soul and pushes the matter off on him. Had the audit come from Mrs. Crump or Jeff Gahan, perhaps out of fear for upsetting their leader, that might have even made a little sense, but blaming it on Mr. Schmidt, when it is already known he wants an audit, why wouldn’t he just make copies and hand them out himself? I didn’t get it from Mr. Schmidt nor have I had any conversations with him about it other than the gracious “Thank you” he extended the other night and my response that he was welcome. It’s a sad state of affairs when a person is targeted as guilty for something because he acts respectful and grateful to a citizen.
But this has nothing to do with logic or reality. It’s about never accepting the blame for anything. It’s about a severe lack of courage, lack of skill, lack of compassion for people and a whole lot of other ugly dynamics that some blogs are focusing on exposing.
Valla Ann

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Hell No, We Won't Pay!!!

This posting is going to show how money from different funds was shifted around, mis-spent, or just plain went missing (as the Audit states: We should demand an investigation), and the mistakes made by the Administration that have brought New Albany to its knees financially.
Too many mistakes, one after another, and too much greed is what has gotten us into this predicament, and we the rate-payers, refuse to be hit up for more money in rate increases. If they try, they can be certain the citizens will respond accordingly.
We will lay out the sequence of events, the funds, and the Council resolutions that appropriated certain funds for certain operations, but were ignored. Particularly in the Sewage Department, but it doesn't stop there.
We suggest that folks also take a look at Freedom of Speech for more interesting information. They have provided an opportunity for CM Schmidt to address the false accusations that have been made against him relating to the distribution of the State Audit.
We would like to make it perfectly clear that we hold the utmost respect for CM Schmidt whose integrity is sterling, and whose honesty is uncompromised. He and Mrs. Schmidt are the most hard working public servants New Albany has been fortunate enough to have in our community. They both have nothing but the best interest of the citizenry at heart at all times. We offer our thanks to the folks at FOS for making it possible for CM Schmidt to set the record straight.
They also have a very good second article that relates to the thread of conversation that is taking place here at Speak Out Loud NA.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

New Albany Potty Police On Patrol

Our thanks go out to the hearty Potty Police of New Albany who made it out today to check on a few of those overflow locations. This one is behind the Hamptom Inn.
If there's been any doubt in your mind as to the severity of our sewer problems, let this photo burn into your memory, and remember it is but one of many locations where sewage literally gushes out of the manholes and creates a substantial health hazard as is posted in this location, which does have the required signage (most do not).
Folks, we are talking about RAW SEWAGE that spills out into the streets, into areas where most of it eventually soaks into the ground (except for the solids that you really don't want to hear about), and you can only imagine what's left behind after these overflows.
You can find the locations of all overflow areas by logging into www.in.gov/idem/water/compbr/compeval/ssoreport.html Look for New Albany in the list.
We have put up a link on our front page to the IDEM Web Site.
Part of what the EPA is mandating in order to receive all our sewer credits that have been requested is not only to do the 2 repairs we've talked so much about, but we must also undergo a one year oversight period to demonstrate NO overflow occurances.
As you can clearly see, we have a lot of work to do.
We will be adding onto this posting over the next couple of days, so check back and we'll have updated information and more pictures.
We'll also be talking more about the money and time it will take to get us into compliance with the EPA mandates.
We should not be trying to make deals about this situation. Who wants to live in a City that has raw sewage flowing thru the streets with every inch of rain we get? It is a serious health hazard to everyone who lives here.
In our opinion, one of the duties of a City government should be to provide a safe and clean environment for its citizens. Currently we are living with health hazards.
This sewer situation, along with the dilapidated housing, the garbage filled alley ways, and the rodent infestations are simply unacceptable. Any administration official who does not have these issues at the top of the priority list for the City and for us, has absolutely no interest in serving in the best interest of the City.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

What Can We Say? (Plenty)

That's our best response to the happenings of this past week.
Very interesting string of events and communications.
"Uh...I didn't know..."
That's what we anticipate from the administration in the coming week.
"Hell 'yea! We've been tryin' to tell 'ya!!!!"
That's what we expect from the wee voices of the voters ('lil people)
The realities of how the Sewer Fund has been operating, yet not functioning, will all be spelled out for everyone to see, so there will be no doubts about who and why so much more money is needed to do what we have to do.

Now, we've also recently read the Monthly - end of the month (Jan. 2006) - expense report over at 'Freedom of Speech'.
Our response?
"Get the calculator and add it up."
Here's what we arrived at:
The first thing we are going to look at is our 'Good 'Ol, beat 'em up, Bad Man, CM representative of the 3rd district, Steve Price's silly little fussing about nickels & dimes expenditures like cell phones, pagers, and other "communications" devices.
His suggestion of wasteful spending in this particular category has resulted in the chastising of him by certain parties (no names here), as the "un-Councilman Price".
Well, let's take a look. What do the numbers tell us about a one month expenditure balance sheet when it comes to cell communications?

1. One Month Communications Expenses: $4900.00 for 6 Departments
I. Cell-Phones
II. Pagers
III. Radios

If we can consolidate communications and reduce costs by 30%, that saves $18K annually.
We believe $18,000 equates to another part-time position to process fines, for example, or what ever else it could be better utilized for.
It is a matter of being fiscally conservative, while embroiled in a fiscally challenging time like New Albany is facing right now.
Right now, the Street Department could use some help if that can be taken as a suggestion, so they could fix the streets of the inner-city in a manner by which they would not beat the **it out of our vehicles daily.

Of course, that has to come after getting the big stuff taken care of.
The most important issue at hand is to complete the Sewer repairs needed to comply with what the EPA - they been telling us - Rob. E. Lee Project and the Screen Bar replacement, so that true and substantial economic development can take place.
It MUST become our number one initiative to take care of this situation, get into compliance, and then get moving on what and how Downtown New Albany may come back to life as.
I'm sure the YMCA will help, to a degree, with attracting new businesses, but we still have a lot of other issues to deal with in terms of Downtown development.
Infrastructure isn't the "prettiest" or the most "positive" end of Economic development issues, but it's the foundation on which we will grow.
If we are to grow.
When the 2006 audit comes in, and the budget has been cut (as most are predicting), the Mayor will be asked to make cuts in the "fringe benefits" and the miscellaneous areas of his budget where cuts can and should be easily made.
TIF areas should be reeled back to one, maybe two. Having 5 & 6 TIF Districts in this town is ridiculous. It keeps money out of the General Fund.
You know, the fund they just borrowed $4 million for so they could make a cash flow problem go away, temporarily.
Otherwise, we're in great shape.
Take Care Tonight New Albany. You're going to need your rest.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Re-Print of "Freedom of Speech" blog Posting

Monday, February 27, 2006
We understand a meeting was held in the Mayor's office on February 14, 2006, with no information made public!

We have had knowledge of this information concerning the 2004 Audit but have been sitting on it since 2/21/06, waiting for this information to be made public. If memory serves, the Mayor was asked, by a council member, at the last council meeting (2/16/06) if he had heard about the 2004 audit and he responded that he had not. Doesn't it seem rather strange that the field reps from the State Board of Accounts were right here in the city without his knowledge?

Well, citizens of New Albany this is how the procedure should be done.

1. The exit conference takes place before the audit is completed. That exit conference takes place in the city of the audit with the Mayor, Controller, and Council President. At this time the Official concurs with the Auditor's findings.

2. The audit is then submitted to the State Board of Accounts, (meaning handed over to the State Board of Accounts by the staff who did the audit of the city for the State Board of Accounts to review and agree).

3. After the State Board of Accounts in Indianapolis reviews and agrees with the findings it is then filed. At this time the audit should be made available to the public.

To the shock of the participants of Freedom of Speech we contacted the Mayor's office not once, not twice, but three times during the week of 2/21/06 and asked if there was any word about the 2004 Audit. We were told each time that there was no word. How can ordinary citizens have this information and the Mayor's office not?

We also contacted various members of the City Council during this time, even as late as today, asking the same question. None of the council members questioned had any knowledge of the audit either.

We, the participants of Freedom of Speech, feel the members of the City Council should have this information as a matter of course. Again, we must ask what does the Mayor have to hide? Why doesn't he communicate and update members of the council of the steps being taken for the audit. Doesn't the Council have the right to know about the audit? It is our opinion that this shows a total lack of professionalism.

In the next several days, Freedom of Speech should have a copy of the 2004 Audit. At this time it will be made public for all of the citizens of New Albany to review.

We, the citizens, do not see competence in the Mayor's administration. He continues to dismiss his critics as misguided and/or pessimistic. Contrary to his remarks, we number more than six of seven citizens.

We the public and citizens of New Albany no longer have confidence in his decisions and feel that he should resign.

posted by One voice at 5:51:00 PM