Paul Rodrigues, Finance Director, City of Eureka Responds to Examiner’s Post
The Finance Director commented on yesterday’s POT OF GOLD post. We thank him for taking the time to add a little more information to what has been a void. It was sold to the voters as a very transparent and open process. Read his comment (below) and you well see that he tried to refute our assertions.
Our rebuttal to Mr. Rodrigues is as follows:
The Finance Advisory Committee was never envisioned by the previous City Council as a substitute to the committee described in Measure O -“citizen’s oversight committee shall be established to conduct annual audits”. It would have said that in the ballot measure or arguments for the measure. For the public’s protection this was supposed to be a completely independent committee. Not the very political, mayor appointed, Finance Advisory Committee.
Audits are very different and are a line by line review of what is taken in and spent. That is a very different process than the current “oversight” of Measure O.
The Finance Director; “Measure O spending has been budgeted to the tune of about 79 percent to Public Safety.” Budgeting versus expending is not just a fine point, but something very different. You can add a budget item for a thousand firemen, but if you don’t actually spend the money, it can easily be recycled into the general fund and spent on whatever pet projects the council wants.
The Committee is not just supposed to be “good with how the money was spent”, it was supposed to detail the expenditures and sign off on those details.
The Finance Director; “Any monies budgeted but not spent are transferred to reserves and designated as having come from Measure O.” After three and a half years of not spending all of the money there must be one hell of a reserve. Please give us the breakdown. Is there a specific “reserve” for public safety, or is it just put back into the general fund?
The Finance Director; “a quick glance at the site shows that it’s not there. I am having the expenditure report uploaded to the website in the next week or so.” Well good, but it’s been 3 ½ years.
The Finance Director; Measure O contains this “A YES vote means that you support the services and programs provided by our Fire and Police Departments. A YES vote means you value Sequioa Park zoo, safe parks, recreation, and programs to protect the environment.” You are correct sir, it does. Our point is the public campaign was about how Measure O is for Public Safety. Remember the big yellow signs? The Police Dept is woefully understaffed and crimes are up. EPD just took an across the board pay cut. New officers will be paid less then if they hired last year. We weren’t competitive pay wise to begin with. Will the Measure O money that is budgeted for public safety, that hasn’t been spent, ever actually be spent on public safety?
The Examiner, upon further study, still believes the City deserves a failing grade. Has the money actually been spent on public safety? Or, has all the unspent money gone toward new exhibits at the zoo? Even worse, has it been spent on other pet projects for the political cronies of current council members? Why did the police take a pay cut, when Mr. Rodrigues states there are reserves of saved money from Measure O? These questions can’t be answered unless the public is given the factual information from a citizens committee that does a complete audit of Measure O.
The Finance Director Paul Rodrigues full Comment:
My name is Paul Rodrigues and I am the Finance Director for the City of Eureka.
I would be more than happy to have a discussion with anyone who has any questions regarding Meaure O spending or any other questions they may have regarding City of Eureka finances.
It would be nice to have a constructive conversation regarding your assertions, so this is my attempt to address them. Please do not hesitate to either email me at email@example.com or call me at 441-4114.
The Examiner has taken a look at how measure O promises and pledges have been kept.
Let see how the City of Eureka has done:
“A citizen’s oversight committee shall be established …FAIL”
I respectfully disagree. The Finance Advisory Committee was tasked with taking of the role of overight of Measure O. That does not seem to be a “FAIL” to me.
“Review the City’s expenditure of these revenues generated by the tax…..FAIL”
Again, respectfully disagree. The FAC reviewed the expenditures of the revenuees generated by the tax. Dave Parris, the FAC Chair gave a report, one that you apparently did care for, but that does not change the fact that the commitee reviewed the expenditures and they were good with the way the funds were expended.
“Annual audits of all expenditures generated by the tax……FAIL”
Pass. Again, The FAC was given a detailed list of the expenitures. Further, there are many kinds of audits, ranging in nature and scope from forensic audits which examine every transaction, to annual audits which provide reasonable assurance that the finacial statements are free from material misstatement, to payroll tax audits or bed tax audits, where expenditures are tied from room reports or payroll records to the general ledger, and then to the tax return.
The FAC’s role in oversight of Measure O spending performed an examination which is line with the latter definition, although the City’s financial records ARE audited every year by an independent CPA firm, and Measure O funds are part of that. Again, PASS.
“City post to their website, a detailed spending plan and an annual report from the City of revenues collected and how the funds have been spent……FAIL”
I would not say that this is an A+, perhaps a C- at this point, because a spending plan has been prepared, and it should be on the City’s website, but a quick glance at the site shows that it’s not there. I am having the expenditure report uploaded to the website in the next week or so.
Measure O spending is listed on the website already, though as part of the City’s annual budget, posted on the site the 2013-14 proposed document is the document that was approved by Council last June.
“The bottom line is clear, Measure O was intended to support public safety. One look at the Police Dept staffing (about 15% down) and you can see Measure O money is not being spent on the Police Dept.”
This is simply not the case. Measure O spending has been budgeted to the tune of about 79 percent to Public Safety. Any monies budgeted but not spent are transferred to reserves and designated as having come from Measure O. This is in the interest of being completely transparent and open. When staffing is down, not all of Measure O is spent, but then it is shown as HAVING COME FROM MEASURE O.
When there are sufficient reserves built up, the City Council can look at other Public Safety Expenditures that are more long term in nature, such as the building of a new Fire Department.
The same wording that you’ve used to bring up the oversight commitee and other items also contains this – in fact this wording is at the beginning of the City of Eureka’s Measure O ballot measure:
A YES vote means that you support the services and programs provided by our Fire and Police Departments. A YES vote means you value Sequioa Park zoo, safe parks, recreation, and programs to protect the environment. A YES vote on this measure means a minimal increase in local sales tax in order to raise nearly $3 million annually for 5 years to help fund critical city services. A YES vote means you are taking an active role in protecting our quality of life in Eureka during these difficult economic times.
Thank you very much for your time. Again, I am more than happy to talk in person, over the phone, or via email about this very important issue, and again thanks for the opportunity to perhaps provide some clarification.
Paul Rodrigues, Finance Director, City of Eureka