Originally posted May 4 2010
Photo by ctblogger 04.2010
With all the scrutinizing over the city's allocation to grant agencies and schools, it should come to a surprise that this year's budget proposal includes a line item that has absolutely no accountability.
During the public health and safety ad-hoc committee meeting, councilman Jack Knapp brought up the issue of a line item of 425,000 dollars in the Fire Department budget that goes to the volunteer fire department and questioned how the money was used. What happens next is quite remarkable as the members of the council admit that there is no accountability for the money used by the department.
COUNCILMAN VISCONTI: I just think that we are giving out almost a half a million dollars here. I think we should have some type of record keeping so we know what it's being spent on.
FIRE CHIEF HERALD: It's certainly a legitimate question.
COUNCIL PRESIDENT CAVO: Just for historical perspective…a couple of years ago, the previous director of finance made a request to all the receiving agencies that received money to supply that office with an accounting of their records…I believe that some departments complied and some did not. I still think that's totally possible for the director of finance to request that from them. They should absolutely request that from the director of finance.
FIRE CHIEF HERALD: Similar as they do with the grant agencies.
COUNCIL PRESIDENT CAVO: Yes. If the grant agencies can do it…
COUNCILWOMAN STANLEY: Can they do that for this year's budget?
COUNCIL PRESIDENT CAVO: I don't know if they would have to get that to us before we vote.
FIRE CHIEF HERALD: Well, whether you…a dispersal is different than voting I would say—
COUNCILWOMAN STANLEY: That's right—
FIRE CHIEF HERALD: When is the dispersal?
FINANCE DIRECTOR: Usually, funds are dispersed in July. In some cases, it's distributed four times a year.
COUNCILWOMAN DEEP: You can distributed it whenever you want right?
FINANCE DIRECTOR: Well, with the grant agencies you like to do it on some type of pre-determined basis…so it's clear and they can budget accordingly…
UNKNOWN COUNCILMAN: What determines that number [allocation to the volunteer fire department].
FIRE CHIEF HERALD: That number has been the same for about eight years from what I can see…
AD-HOC CHAIR (Charles Trombetta): I think that even that is about part of the budget…all the questions are legitimate, we need to have a separate ad-hoc committee to look into that…
With all due respect to the volunteer fire department, having over 400,000 in taxpayer's money at their disposal without accountability is unacceptable…and according to members of the council, this is not the first time this issue was discussed.
In the past, the council has voted to withhold allocating money to a non profit agency without a first having detailed account on how the money was going to be used. The Hispanic Center was singled out and de-funded due in large part to their activism during the 287g/ICE ACCESS debate although their city funding was not used towards criticizing the city. If the council demanded accountability for non-profit agencies and scrutinized the education budget to the penny, surely you would think the council should have SOME CLUE how the allocation of 400,000+ dollars to the volunteer fire department was being used.
What we have hear is a classic case of a double standard and the council should not allocate anything until they have a detailed analysis on how this extremely large sum of money is being used.