Tuesday, October 20, 2009

State Questions CFO Process

A special meeting Monday to name a part-time chief finance officer and then authorize resolutions requiring the CFO’s approval imploded Monday when city officials admitted the city is under state scrutiny for its lack of a properly-assigned CFO.

Councilman Adrian Mapp had asked at the Oct. 13 meeting who was certifying that funds were available for three funding requests. When told that new Finance Director Bibi Taylor had signed off on the requests, Mapp, a certified chief finance officer himself, objected. The title is a statutory one requiring advice and consent of the governing body and none had been sought. The resolutions were withdrawn.

On Monday, longtime city Audit & Control employee Sandra Cummings was up for advice and consent of a mayoral appointment as “part-time chief financial officer” for a term not to exceed six months. But as the meeting began, Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said state officials had sent a letter to the mayor and council saying there is no such thing as a part-time or acting CFO.

Without a certified, approved CFO, basic fiscal functions cannot take place.

Williamson described talks with state officials going late into Monday, which even included state Local Government Services Director Susan Jacobucci weighing in from her sickbed on her Blackberry. Certification specialist Dan Kaminski was also involved in the talks, he said.

The state officials agreed to allow the mayor to appoint someone to serve duties of a chief financial officer for 90 days, Williamson said, while the city seeks a temporary or permanent CFO. Williamson said he was withdrawing Cummings’ nomination.

But then the bone of contention became the state letter itself. Council members said they never received it.

A discussion ensued about confusion over how letters to the governing body and administration are disseminated. Any communications for the City Council must go through City Clerk Laddie Wyatt, as she is secretary to the governing body, but apparently that never happened in the CFO matter. Wyatt mentioned past confusion about sharing state communications to both the mayor and governing body.

Council members Monday asked Williamson and Dashield to produce the letter, even calling for officials to phone Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who did not attend the meeting, to ask where it was.

Lacking the letter, Councilwoman Annie McWilliams said, “I don’t feel comfortable voting tonight without all the information.”

Councilman Adrian Mapp said it was not the first time a letter was not shared, citing “disrespect” and “a pattern of withholding information from the governing body.”

Williamson said he could not say it was done purposely, but Council President Rashid Burney said the council was “pretty firm” that it wanted to see the letter and asked Williamson to call the mayor to find out where it was.

The council recessed to allow Williamson to call the mayor, but when the meeting reconvened, he said he had been unable to reach Robinson-Briggs.

“I made every effort,” he said. “She has not answered.”

With that, he requested that the remaining three resolutions, all requiring certification of funding, be withdrawn.

Williams said he would send copies of the letter to all council members, but McWilliams said the letter should be sent to Wyatt as secretary to the council.

“I stand corrected,” Willamson said, promising to send all future official correspondence to the clerk.

As the council prepared to go on to a discussion of economic growth, Burney said the administration officials could leave and Williamson, City Administrator Marc Dashield and department heads did so.

Before the meeting, Plaintalker looked into how the city has handled the CFO issue since the last permanent CFO, Peter Sepelya, retired at the end of 2007.

On January 14, 2008, as “Acting Chief Financial Officer,” Sandra Cummings signed a certification of sufficient funds to remove an oil tank from the Madison Avenue playground.

In September 2008, the City Council approved the appointment of Bridgewater CFO Natasha Turchan as “Chief Financial Officer/Municipal Finance Officer” on a “part-time basis” retroactive to Aug. 25, 2008 and continuing through Dec. 31, 2008.

No subsequent nomination appeared in an online archive of agenda session documents. A February 17, 2009 resolution for professional engineering services contains language that sufficient funding was certified by a city CFO, but no certification was attached to the resolution as filed online. A special meeting on June 25, 2009 contains two resolutions offered by an “Acting Chief Finance Officer.” On Oct. 13, certification for funds for environmental services is guaranteed by the “Acting Comptroller of the City of Plainfield.”

It would appear that there was no officially appointed CFO after Turchan’s term expired.

The name of James Mangin was offered in July at the same time Taylor was nominated and approved as director of the Administration & Finance, Health and Social Services, but Mangin was not hired. A permanent CFO receives a four-year term if hired. Mangin would have received a term starting Jan. 1, 2009 and ending Dec. 31, 2012.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you kidding??? Council President Burney and the rest of the city council should be demanding the resignation of Dashield and Williamson for malfeasance and incompetence. Their irresponsibility has harmed the city and they will continue to defer their fiduciary responsibilities if left unchecked. The mayor fired Peck for incompetence, among other things, so now is the time to insist that she fire these two.


7:35 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

So, the Circus not only came to town when Assistant Mayor Sharon was elected but it has set up permanent residency. Please Plainfield let's end this CLOWN ACT NOW! She couldn't be reached ??? Try this.. She WOULDN'T ANSWER THE PHONE. Her shady underhanded actions can only be labeled as trying to "buy time" until after the election. WOULD SOMEONE REPORT THE MAYOR TO THE AUTHORITIES! Put that on the front page of the Courier News for a few weeks to run her and Jerry out of town..

9:07 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Ooooo!!!! Bernice, Wow..inspiration comes at the oddest times. Seriously, can you see the Courier News SLAMMING Assistant Mayor Sharon repeatedly prior to the election and then slooooooooooooowly watching Mayor Jerry distance himself from her? I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THAT HAPPEN, which will if the newspapers start labeling her and her reign as incompetent, unprofessional and amateurish...THEN ASSISTANT MAYOR SHARON will realize how things work in NJ politics when she is left dangling in the breeze by herself.

9:50 AM  
Blogger active citizen said...

Thanks for hitting the clown mayor on the head. She does need to go and so does her sideshow. They all need to be fired for their game playing and incompetence.

I hope every gets to see how sloppy this administration is and how much they need to be replaced. Any letter from the state about our not having a CFO falls firmly in the Assistant Mayor's lap. It seems we have New Jersey's own female Sharp James. What a bunch of BS.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Thom said...

The two submissions are right on target. And we are going to give her a second term? It's ridiculous when those who are either chosen or appointed to run City Government can't take the time to sit down and read what needs to be done according to our Charter and the State law. Governing by the "seat of one's pants does not get it!"

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did they call her on a city cell phone? If so, get it out of her hands. She won't need it after November 3rd anyway. Thank goodness.

Now how do we file charges against her and the administration members involved?

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Jim Pivnichny said...

I was there last night to witness the fiasco and have written about my views on my own blog. I will say this: If elected I will either attend counsel meetings or be available by phone, I will hire competent, qualified people for all statutory posts and I will see that council gets their mail.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all this talk of possible corruption, perhaps the administration has taken a page from the play book of the recreation superintendent. dave wynn bogards his way around or through anyone he thinks will stop him from getting his way and the adminstration has always turned a blind eye. Now the administration wants to disregard the council in the same manner. Something smells real rank in this city. Perhaps the truth is finally coming to light.

7:57 PM  

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