Letter to the Editor
I just wanted to point out some of the financial problems that the City experienced under the Charter, with a City Manager running the City. We understand that these examples did not all happen under the current City Manager, but these problems occurred under Galion’s Charter/City Manager form of government. All of these examples are taken from the State of Ohio Auditor’s reports and indicate that the City Manager has too much power and that there is no checks and balances over City finances.
(1) bounced checks – The City’s entire financial operation is under the City Manager, and only one signature was required on City checks. At the time the City’s checks were bouncing, one of our City Council Members worked at the bank where the checks were bouncing. Did that City Council Member ever notify City Council or the City Manager of the irregularities that were going on with the City’s bank account?
From January 2003 through May 2004, the City incurred bank services charges of approximately $ 50,000 related to the City checking accounts. The City was charged overdraft fees as well as interest charges on the average negative cash balances. This is a staggering figure and covers a period of time from 2003–2004, reflecting that ‘red flags’ about City finances were out there for a long time and being ignored.
[FYI — Recently, I requested a copy of the City’s First Federal Bank checking account statement from March 2004 (the month Bill Bauer shot himself). Our City Finance Director told me that those records were destroyed and that the City did not have any copies; she then told me to contact First Federal about getting a copy. I did just that; and was told by First Federal that I would need to pay regular bank charges for the research and copies, and I agreed to do that. Now, First Federal has said that they will not release these City records until every single official and all Council Members have signed a release. Since the Finance Director alone has complete authority over the City bank accounts, this requirement by First Federal is just intended to give me the run around.]
(2) cell phones – The City Manager can spend a large amount of money without going to City Council. All City employees were given cell phones. Why? In 2003, the City ended up with a bill of $ 111,443 for cell phones, of which employees paid $ 22,978 leaving the City to pay $ 88,465. This was all done under the City Manager’s watch.
(3) credit cards – City credit cards were being issued to people who did not need them for any legitimate reason, and they were being used to buy lunches even after the State Auditor told them to stop. The City Manager charged meals to the City credit card in the amount of $753.79 (2003) and $ 261.03 (2004) — these must sure have been some good lunches. Other credit card charges included tickets for museums and professional hockey games. The employees certainly benefited from this, but the citizens who paid for this did not.
(4) employee benefits — vacation – In 2003, the City Fire Chief was paid in cash for 220 hours of accumulated vacation leave, totaling $ 6105, but the total annual vacation leave earned by the Fire Chief during 2003 totaled only 212 hours under the collective bargaining agreement. Any vacation leave payout to the Fire Chief should have been limited to one-half of that (106 hours), which resulted in the Fire Chief being paid for 114 hours more vacation than allowed, as the Fire Chief was inappropriately paid for the entire 220 hours of accumulated vacation leave.
(5) employee benefits – uniform allowance — Currently the City is paying yearly uniform allowances to employees who do not even wear uniforms.
These are just some examples of illegal expenditures and wasteful expenditures that occurred under the Charter/City Manager form of government. These examples show that the City Manager just has not been looking out for the public’s money.
Today, under our Charter, the City Manager still has too much power and the entire financial operation of the City is still entirely under the City Manager. I support returning Galion to the statutory/mayor form of government, with the leadership of the City being in the hands of four (4) elected officials — the mayor, the auditor, the treasurer, and the law director. Under the statutory form of government, the City’s finances will then be the responsibility of two (2) elected officials (the auditor and the part-time treasurer) with them being responsible for all of the City’s funds and providing a much-needed checks and balances over City finances.
Our current fiscal emergency is one of the worst in the history of the State of Ohio. We need to insure that nothing like this can ever happen again. This Election, citizens can do something about our City government by voting YES on the Charter Amendment (Issue 5) to return Galion to a statutory/MAYOR form of government. We need a mayor who lives in Galion and cares about our City and our citizens.
Shirley A. Clark