City of DeKalb’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, contains a letter to management from the auditors that discusses a “significant deficiency” in DeKalb’s internal accounting controls.

The DeKalb city council is set to discuss the report during its Committee of the Whole meeting January 9 at 5 pm.

Here is how the auditor defines “significant deficiency” in the management letter (my emphasis):

A deficiency in internal control exists when the design or operation of a control does not allow management or employees, in the normal course of performing their assigned functions, to prevent, or detect and correct, misstatements on a timely basis. A material weakness is a deficiency or a combination of deficiencies in internal control, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the City’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected, on a timely basis. A significant deficiency is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control that is less severe than a material weakness, yet important enough to merit attention by those charged with governance.

Read the rest of this entry

Recently I came across this City of DeKalb memo circulated via a council meeting agenda in October:

With former Commander Smith’s retirement in June, the City faced an immediate crisis by not having on-call IT personnel who are familiar with the City’s specific computer systems and able to keep them operational at all times. On June 29, 2016, the City Manager entered into an agreement with Mr. Smith to provide IT support services to the City’s public safety computer system. An agreement to retain Mr. Smith until a new IT Director is hired needs to be approved by the City Council in the event the contract exceeds $20,000.

And here’s part of the resolution accompanying the memo:

WHEREAS, the City’s Purchasing Policy states: If any City purchase increases the total over $20,00 for the current fiscal year, the contract must be presented to the City Council for approval; and

WHEREAS, the ratification of said agreement constitutes approval to the exceed the $20,000 staff spending limitation; and…

Sounds like city manager Anne Marie Gaura can spend on anything she wants, as long as the tab comes in under $20,000, right? Sure seems like it sometimes. Read the rest of this entry

City of DeKalb candidates for municipal offices in the spring elections are not all using the same ballot petition forms.

For example, of the four mayoral candidates, three of them are filing as “independents” and one of them filed a “nonpartisan” form. A similar pattern has occurred with the aldermanic candidates.

There are differences. “Independent” signals that a municipality has partisan elections, but the independent candidate has decided on the independent label instead of a party label, and the independent doesn’t “get primaried” like the party animals do. “Nonpartisan” means there’s always just one election, and nobody in it has a formal label at all.

Nobody ever “gets primaried” in DeKalb. Does that mean DeKalb has nonpartisan elections?

If you said, “Yes,” you are wrong, according to the State Board of Elections, which has confirmed that they have DeKalb categorized as partisan. It’s easy to see why many of us think that, though. We have a long tradition of “not primary-ing” anybody, and this has morphed over time into an assumption that DeKalb has nonpartisan elections (hence the regular appearance of nonpartisan petition sheets). The clerk’s office doesn’t even post the deadlines, signature requirements and election dates for municipal primaries in the same place as it lists them for other local elections, which adds to the confusion.

By the way, Board of Elections also says the specific form doesn’t matter as long as the content requirements (e.g., numbers of signatures) are met.

I have suggested to the county clerk’s office that they add primary information in the future, which would help us remember that we have the right to primaries if we want them.

We should discuss the pros and cons sometime.

***Update 12/13: I did not make the meeting last night, but have been told that the RFP discussion has been tabled or postponed.***

***Update 12/12: Some of the comments about the RFP on Facebook are interesting.***

A memo accompanying Item G8 of tomorrow’s DeKalb city council agenda starts like this.

The Information Technology Department conducted a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for the replacement of physical and virtual servers for the Police and Fire departments. Responders were required to provide a solution that would provide the departments with the servers and storage to replace the present systems as well as provide that ability to expand both the processing power and expansion of the storage in the future. There were two respondents to the RFP, Sun Dog, Inc (Sun Dog) with a proposal of $119,182.37, and Syndeo Networks Inc. (Syndeo) at $88,341.20.

The budgeted amount is $150,000, so they’re doing great, right? Not so fast.

As part of the RFP, disaster recovery was requested of the proposal for emergency purposes. In case of a major disaster this would allow all systems to be replicated and operational at an alternate location. Syndeo’s proposal was for $179.643.00 and Sun Dog did not provide this option. Since the proposal from Syndeo was over the budgeted amount, they were asked for another solution that would allow staff to stay within the budgeted amount. They were able to provide a third alternative that was $151,029.25. Sun Dog was then contacted to provide pricing for solutions 2 and 3. Those two prices were an estimated $199,182.37 for solution 2 and $249,182.37 for solution 3.

To be very clear: the budgeted amount of $150,000 (p. 188) was specifically for server consolidation and storage. That’s it. Somehow, other goodies got added along the way so they could spend the budgeted amount and more.

Can’t wait to see if council calls out the bait and switch.

Ald. Jacobson’s Budget Remarks

Many thanks to DeKalb County Online for isolating DeKalb council member Dave Jacobson’s comments of November 28 on the proposed 2017 budget.

The two men showing disrespectful body language are Mayor Rey (far right) and Fourth Ward Ald. Bob Snow (second from right).

Remember this from October?

This week, city staff asked the city council to waive the residency requirement for the IT director candidate that they like. It was presented as super-urgent, and council went along.

The problem with this (besides their ongoing preference for carpetbaggers, I mean) is that it goes against a policy set by council that identified the IT director as an emergency response position. That is, this person has been categorized by council as needing to be close to hand in case of emergency.

Council should have insisted that the policy be followed, at least until the matter could be revisited for deliberation at a public meeting. Instead, the city manager’s convenience was prioritized over a public safety consideration.

Were you perhaps puzzled about how the top IT candidate got so far in the interview process when residency was an issue for him? I’ve got yer answer lying in my email inbox. Out of five ads placed for the IT director, there are zero mentions of the residency requirement.

Remember how City of DeKalb never got rid of its legal assistant, even when the city switched to an outside attorney who is contractually obligated to hire and pay his own help?

The city is still providing the attorney with hired help, only now they’ve changed the name of the position to “administrative assistant.”

Fighting Over Scraps

The Chronicle posted an article online last night about council’s fight over the proposed annual budget that begins January 1.

The article says that city staff presented a draft budget with 75% cuts in the social services allocations. This is different from the online version available to the public, which shows the line item (account 8307) as $160,000.

It’s a problem that these various drafts never get posted for the public so we can participate in a meaningful way. However, my main point here is that everyone is reduced to fighting over scraps to balance this budget, because the city manager refuses to give up any goodies for herself and her pets. The human services line item has been, at best for several years, at $150,000; that probably wouldn’t cover the compensation the new IT director will get. What’s budgeted for education and professional development (account 8376) is $249,000, an amount that’s more than doubled in two years. Meanwhile, reductions in raises are considered the “last resort.” They deny themselves nothing.

Staff say they are only reducing what’s not “core services.” Maintaining streets is a core service, but expenditures for streets are nil next year in your neighborhood unless you’re lucky enough to live in a TIF district.

As Ald. Jacobson put it:

They did what I expected them to do and proved that they are here to serve themselves, they are here to ensure that the raises are either expected or guaranteed and that they get paid more while the community continues to suffer.

That’s what bureaucrats do. They carve out their territories and feather their nests. Our only hope — always, not just now — is a council that understands its role as a check on their enormous appetites.

The budget is up for final approval December 12.

**Correction and clarification added 11/30**

In DeKalb’s fiscal year budget for 2008, $214,000 was allocated in the legislative department budget for social services funding. Two years later, the amount was reduced to $150,000, because the city was still experiencing post-Great Recession budget crises.

The funding has never been restored. It’s been at $150,000 ever since, split between about a dozen agencies/programs.

In the proposed FY2017 budget under consideration now, administrators went so far as to zero out this legislative line item altogether. (**correction/clarification added 11/30: it still appears as a line item, though moved to the community development department, and not at the reduced amount discussed Monday.) Council quickly restored the funding Monday evening amid public outcry. However, I doubt that serious discussion of actual policy took place.

We do need to have that discussion. Should city government fund social and supportive services? If so, what’s the plan? Read the rest of this entry

In “Mayor’s View: DeKalb in Solid Financial Shape for 2017,” John Rey is claiming that DeKalb is in fine financial shape.

This will be his campaign refrain, but it’s nonsense. DeKalb has been spending more than it’s been taking in, the steep rise in spending is primarily due to over-staffing, and the foremost casualty is infrastructure such as street maintenance. It’s the same pattern as for 2010-11, only worse.

dyerware.com


The first category reflects expenditures from Capital Projects, Fleet Fund, and Equipment Fund; some years Fleet and Equipment are separate, other years they are combined with/in Capital Projects. The second category includes expenditures out of two accounts in the Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) Fund that have to do with street maintenance and construction. (Other accounts in this fund, such as one for road salt, are more operationally related and therefore not included.) The third category combines the first two expenditure categories so you can see how close to the bottom of the barrel we are.

As projected, the coming year’s capital expenditures will reach their lowest point in at least a dozen years.

Related: DeKalb’s $10 Million Budget Hole