Sunday, November 04, 2012

City Council Minutes Hide Extent of Furniture Fiasco

San Angelo City Council minutes soft pedaled the purchase and installation of $100,000 in furniture for the Water Department, prior to required Council approval.

Councilmember Morrison expressed his concerns of the additional expenditure required for office furniture at City Hall and recalled the meeting when staff presented the item.

Clarification:  The item was $200,000 in furniture and council members were assured this would be the last change order on the renovation project.

Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Michael Dane explained City Council approved the purchase for general fund departments and had understood the other departments with their own funding sources would purchase furniture for their offices within City Hall and Community Development Departments.

Clarification:  Where is "this understanding" reflected in any city documents or city council presentations on the project?  Also, Dane stated the $100,000 request came across his desk and he flagged it for council approval.  Yet, that didn't happen.  Not only did Interim City Manager Dane not bring it, somebody executed the purchase order without required approval.  

General discussion was held and concerns expressed regarding the approval of the furniture purchase, the City’s purchasing policy, a department director’s authority to make purchases over $50K when such actions are required by policy to be reviewed and approved by City Council, and directive to staff to implement preventative measures to ensure the proper procedures are followed.

Concern:  There was no approval.  Someone acted unilaterally.  Why can't the minutes state a city employee executed a $100,000 purchase and installation of furniture without authorization?  Why do the minutes talk about preventive measures, when they should ask for an investigation, with possible disciplinary action?

Councilmember Silvas suggested former Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff clarify the furniture budget approved of $200K. Ms. Grindstaff remarked the scope grew out of the balance funds remaining from the project budget and another staff member was working with departments on the office furniture purchase.

Clarification:  Grindstaff clearly stated the $100,000 purchase occurred outside her responsibilities as project manager.  Who is the staff member that worked with the Water Department to execute the unauthorized purchase?  Not one City Council person asked for their identity:

Motion, to approve the purchase, with the understanding the City Manager will follow up on the purchase and related procedure, was made by Councilmember Adams and seconded by Councilmember Hirschfeld.

Further concerns were expressed noting dissatisfaction with the process, the integrity issues among staff, the obligation to pay the vendor, and the responsibility of such action to the voters.
Expectation:  Given the wording above, one might expect a presentation on the investigation, its findings and any disciplinary action at the next City Council Meeting.  It's not on the agenda for November 6, 2012.. 

The first mention of the infraction came as Mayor imposed a measure of "justice."
Mayor directed the City Manager to find savings within the Water Utilities’s budget to make up for the unauthorized expenditure. Council concurred.

A vote was taken on the motion on the floor. AYE: New, Alexander, Silvas, Adams, Hirschfeld, and Farmer. NAY: Morrison. Motion carried 6-1.

"Just us" done.  Issued buried.

1 comment:

Jim Turner said...

One interesting issue that's easy to overlook is that all the old furniture was used in different departments within city hall. When asked where it was used no one could give a firm, accurate answer outside of the fact council was assured it wasn't thrown away. It almost looks to me like there was another shortfall in furniture throughout city hall so instead of buying just what was needed to move in, the Water utility replaced all their furniture so their old furniture could be used to make up the shortfall.