Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Harvey: It's called accountability

Seems our new Mayor ran into a couple of members of the City Council who are intent on keeping an eye on the city payroll and he didn't like it:
"Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. faced off against City Council members on Monday by refusing to provide a weekly accounting of city payroll
For years, council members - who approve payroll - have gotten a weekly list of employees and their salaries before their vote. Johnson said he no longer would provide that list because assembling it is "onerous." Johnson bristled under questions from Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill, who routinely asks detailed questions about the weekly payroll and claims dockets that add up into the millions of dollars. Johnson said Weill was meddling in executive department affairs. "You are getting into management of the day-to-day operations," he said.
"There are prerogatives that the mayor has and prerogatives that the council has. ... Those have been out of sync."...
Johnson said it may be possible to present the council with a quarterly list of city employees

Sorry Harvey, but the City Council has every right to inspect what you are asking them to approve, although a monthly payroll would probably be an acceptable compromise. In case you haven't noticed, city finances are a wreck and tax revenues will probably decline for the next twelve months or more. It is the responsibility of the Council to hold the executive branch accountable for how money is spent and how many employees are on the payroll. It's OUR money and we aren't going to listen to any politicians who just say "trust us".


Anonymous said...

Good for the Council. Sorry Harvey, Jackson needs the accountability!

Anonymous said...

Hold Harvey accountable but Weill has nothing to say. He screwed the pooch when he stupidly backed the loser.

Anonymous said...

If nothing else, Jackson desperately needs checks and balances. Hold him/them accountable and demand transparency!

Anonymous said...

Accountability is good, however weekly payroll seems a little overzealous. Monthly reports would be more practical and would provide a broader spectrum for oversight.

Anonymous said...

The detailed payroll review was first enacted when Melton was scamming and jamming his entourage with ghost jobs and no-bid contracts. It was never an issue before and it shouldn't be one now. Our form of government gives us a toothless and powerless legislative branch. There are bigger fish to fry than wasting time on this piss ant stuff.

Kingfish said...

Given the poor condition of city finances, I think the council has every right to ask for the payroll. They are being asked to sign it and any lawyer would tell them to read what they sign.

I do think it should be on a monthly basis however.

Anonymous said...

So you don't trust Harvey Johnson so much that you are worried he will pull the same stunts as Melton. Or, are you saying that all previous Councils were derelict by not reviewing the payroll.

It has nothing to do with the condition of city finances unless you saying that if times were good you'd be less worried about graft and corruption.

Kingfish said...

Am saying they were all derelict.

JDBerry said...

12:32 - Does it matter?

Have we become so indifferent that we simply expect elected officials to vote on things they haven't read, understand or given information about?

If the council has to approve something, does it not stand to reason that they understand what it is they are approving?

Anonymous said...

Of course JDBerry they should read and understand but if the payroll is within the budgetary plan as set forth by the Council then what is the point?

It is politically stupid for Weill and anyone else to oppose Johnson one month into his term on this nit if he is not exceeding the budget. It was Melton's dishonesty that brought the practice about. It was Melton who destroyed a trust that Harvey Johnson had never previously tarnished.

With all the major problems this city faces it is idiotic to waste precious cycles taking a stand on this.

I certainly hope that you will adopt that strident posture and lead the protest marches on city hall the next time our city council is voting on more budget busting rate swaps, tax increment financing and tax kickback schemes. Because from all of Kingfish's investigations the Council is voting on all of those big ticket items that commit Jackson to long term, and sometimes dangerous, debt without a single solitary clue as to what they are voting on nor an inkling as to how in the hell the city is going to pay it all back.

Kingfish said...

Filed FOIA requests for everything on the proposed $40 million bond interest rate swap. Keep it up and we might actually have it killed.

Wonder if Sterne Agee would hire me?

JDBerry said...

The point is that they vote on the payroll each time. What's the point in the vote if, as you suggest, they should just rubber stamp it every time?

Anonymous said...

The liability is on the Council members when they vote on those items. They better know what they are approving. Auditors have a way of asking probing questions.

Kingfish said...


read the Ware case and what the COA had to say about not reading things when you sign them.

Anonymous said...

They vote on the payroll each time because it is the law. Just as they vote on a myriad of other expenditures.

If you want them to conduct a line item review of each weekly payroll transaction then do you also want them to conduct a line item review of each purchase transaction of fuel using the Fuelman card?

You must because if you are saying that it is a requirement that they audit the executive branch to that level of transactional specificity then you can't stop at payroll. If it is a best practice for payroll then it must also be for every other outlay.

Anonymous said...

Depends on what the auditor defines as "material".......they could draw that down to a very small amount. Liability is still there. You really don't want to ever look at an auditor and tell them you approved the expenditure but didn't read the documents.

Anonymous said...

Five gets you $10 that the line item review of payroll isn't considered "material" because if it was then the reviews would have been happening before Melton destroyed the trust. Harvey Johnson wouldn't be pushing back if he felt it exposed the city but maybe local attorney and Councilperson Weill should get his panties in a bunch and ask SA Pickering's office for a formal opinion so that he can find an exit ramp to put up or shut up.

Kingfish said...

I spoke to Weill a little while ago. Here is what I learned. He doesn't want to spend or waste hours scrutinizing the payroll records, just a few minutes to see if anything is out of whack.

Their signature is required on it by law and if they approve something like that that is later determined to be fraud and they shouldn't have approved it, they can be held liable on a personal basis.

Notice how the two attorneys who are political opposites agree on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Who are those attorneys?

Kingfish said...

Weill and Lamumba

Anonymous said...

Here's hoping that going forward Mr. Weill will worry equally about the huge future tax liabilities he and his cohorts are saddling Jackson taxpayers with when they approve tax-diverting giveaways and sweetheart deals downtown as they do their own personal liability skins. SHEESH.

Hookah said...

How hard is it to count money that you do not have?

Anonymous said...

Not sure Weill and Lumumba are political opposites. Cultural opposites, yes. But they both voted no to the Tisdale library naming.

And on the bond deal, I posted months ago that it was dead. It's dead, regardless of your open records request. Good work, KF. Maybe Weill can learn from you.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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