Saturday, January 05, 2013

Water Department Audit Finally on Agenda

On November 20, 2012 City Councilman Dwain Morrison asked that an audit of the Water Department be put on the agenda.  His wish will finally come true.  It's the final agenda item for Council's January 8th meeting.

18. Discussion and consideration of the desirability for an independent audit and investigation of Water Utilities Department; discussion and consideration of the objectives, scope, and parameters of such independent audit and investigation; and, any action in connection thereto.

(Requested by Council member Morrison)

There are different kinds of audits, financial, operational, forensic, to name a few.

The public saw where city purchasing rules were ignored in the ordering and delivery of $100,000 in water department furniture. This raises questions as to whether other city rules were violated by water department leadership.

Operational issues include nonsensical water bills, citizens concerns being dismissed/minimized, and water meter technology that doesn't deliver as promised. Bills are estimated due to the satellite not being able to take meter readings.

If the city is concerned about untoward uses of funds, aka Yantis Green or Debra Brown, a forensic audit is needed.  The aim of the audit needs to be made clear. Conceivably, there could be several different audits with differing aims.

Also, a new Water Department leader is a different set of eyes.  While interim leadership needs to stabilize and make improvements, the greater need is for qualified, ethhical leadership. What are the minimum qualifications for the position, when will the job be posted and how long will a search last (expected time frame)?

Outside eyes include a new permanent director, whether they be a qualified internal candidate or someone from the outside.  That said, given the spate of potential conflict of interest and customer service issues under Will Wilde, a qualified, experienced water director from elsewhere could help create a new culture.


JWT (ConchoInfo Blogger) said...

The critical part of this is INVESTIGATION. Audit has a limited legal meaning, especially in city charter. Investigation is much broader and stronger and on target. From the city charter:

"SECTION 24. INVESTIGATION BY COUNCIL: The City Council shall have power to inquire into the conduct of any office, department, agency, officer or employee of the city and to make investigations as to municipal affairs, and for that purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and compel the production of books, papers and other evidence. Failure to obey such subpoena or to produce books, papers or other evidence as ordered under the provisions of this section shall constitute a misdemeanor. (Amended 11/16/07)"

It was amended in 2007 to remove an artificially low cap on fines for failure to to comply with a council investigation.

Buffalo said...

“Councilman Dwain Morrison said he wanted city administration to publicly admit that there are problems and that they are making efforts to rectify those issues."It seems that there is no admittance from city staff and city administration that there is even a problem," he said.

He shared three emails he received the past two weeks regarding a particular audit of the Water Utilities department where they received one very large bill one month and the following month received a bill that was a credit. Having recently worked closely with Ricky Dickson, interim director of the department and Toni Fox, water conservation coordinator, he said he had confidence they were trying their best to resolve the issues.

With close to 475 citizens who have signed to petition for an audit of the department, Morrison said there is likely an issue with the meters either functionally or with how they are read.

"We want to contact every single one of the individuals that have signed this petition," Valenzuela said.”

There is nothing in the San Angelo City Charter which gives the San Angelo City Manager the right to require citizens to explain themselves to the San Angelo City Managers Office or the right of the San Angelo’s City Manager to contact or question San Angelo Citizens.


SECTION 28. POWERS AND DUTIES OF CITY MANAGER: The City Manager shall see that the laws and ordinances of the City are enforced, shall appoint all appointive officers or employees (who report directly to the city manager) of the City (except the Municipal Judges) with the advice and consent of the Council (such appointments to be made upon merit and fitness alone) and may at will remove any officers or employees appointed by the City Manager. The City Manager shall exercise control and supervision over all departments and offices that may be created by the Council and all appointed officers and employees. The City Manager shall have the right to take part in the discussion at meetings of the Council but shall have no vote. The City Manager shall recommend to the Council such measures as the Manager may deem necessary or expedient. The City Manager shall keep the Council fully advised as to the financial condition and needs of the City and perform such other duties as may be prescribed by this Charter or which may be required by ordinance or resolution of the Council. (Amended 5/6/89 and 11/16/07)

Anonymous said...

Prior to replacing new water meter in my front yard by curb. I had placed a sticky note over the meter and stating on note take me with you. Just to see how long it wold take for meter reader to remove sticky note, well guess what after 1 yr my sticky note was never removed until new meter was placed in. And to add the icing to this. The lid was covered with dirt never removed to read meter. But when you call the water department to notify them the problem they would tell you that meters are read on time and every month and you couldnt tell they were wrong because they would get violent with customers and they would tell you pay the bill or we can have it shut off and pay a reconnect fee..No matter what you would do or say you will not win when talking to any representative in the water department. Its like they were told what to tell customers when we would call in and complain bout our bill or when was meter read... We need to get a petition going and Sue the water department for false accusations and stealing our funds. 3800 block of Rock Brook is all I am going to say.. and we mean the block and area..