According to the Times Union Commissioner of Accounts John Franck has stated he will refuse to have the city pay for a mailing the Charter Commission wants to send to Saratoga voters because it contains inaccurate fiscal projections.
State law says cities cannot interfere with the work of a charter commission and must supply the commission with public funds to complete their work and educate the public about their proposal. Public money cannot be spent on efforts to advocate for the passage of the charter, however.
Franck stated that the financial claims made by the commission are not credible. The Commission claims the major savings of changing to a city manager will come from eliminating four part time commissioners and five fulltime deputies and replacing them with one city manager.
“I’m a CPA by trade,” Franck said. “They want us to believe they will replace 18,000 working hours with one manager who will work 2,000 hours a year. It’s statistically impossible. If they come back with projections that are factual and truthful, I’ll sign off in five seconds.”
Some Charter Commission members have suggested department directors can pick up the work of the commissioners and the deputies but Franck disagreed pointing out that reassigning work will involve working with civil service and the unions.
“Other employees cannot absorb the work, and if they do, you’ll have to pay them,” Franck said. “It’s going to cost more. I’m telling you, I’m not paying for something that misrepresents the facts.”
Other criticisms of the Charter Commission’s financial analysis include the lack of any estimate of what the transition to the new government will cost and the omission of funding for such things included in the charter as an internal audit.
If the city refuses to pay for the mailing the Charter Commission wants to do, the mailing can be done anyway by using the private funds that they have raised and the Commission can try to sue the city after the fact to recover the funds.
The full article is behind a pay wall but some of you may be able to access it at http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/City-council-blocks-charter-review-commission-12225110.php?cmpid=twitter-desktop
12 thoughts on “Commissioner Franck Warns Charter Commission The City Will Not Pay For Their Mailing”
Good for John. The city is being “bullied” to change their form of government and am glad to see a political leader stand up for the right thing.
The Charter Commission’s activities, by law, are to be independent of the sitting government. The Commissioner’s have no jurisdiction to approve or disapprove the Charter Commission’s results. It is solely up to the voter to decide the validity of the proposed change to the Charter. Franck, Madigan and Scirocco’s protests are clearly an obstruction to the process and they have violated the trust of their constituents in doing so.
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They can say that the information is so incorrect in favor of the charter change that it is advocating in nature and thus the city has a right, actually responsibility not to pay for it. This is OUR money and their mailing needs to adhere to the regulations. What I’m hearing is that John (who whether you like him or not, is damn good at finance and figures) believes the financial information is incorrect to the level that it is skewed to the approval of the charter change and thus more advocating than properly educating.
Why do you say bullied? Is the fact that the voters will decide an act of being bullied? Please, John has a right to his opinion but not to accuse someone like Jeff Altamari, retired vice president of finance of Cameron International also a CPA who’s company had 9.8 billion in 2013 of not coming up with correct figures he (Franck) is blowing gas. I wonder how many businesses Franck, Madigan & Scirocco handled finances for with earnings of 9.8 billion?
Well, for a guy with the kind of credentials you cite it seems very peculiar that Mr. Altamari would not include transition costs in his analysis of what charter change will cost. Also missing is the projected cost of adding an internal audit which Mr. Altamri was instrumental in including in the charter . And then there is the case of the alleged savings of removing five deputies except they aren’t removed but continue to serve at the pleasure of the city manager. Given that Mr. Altamari didn’t bother to find out what these deputies actually do it seems an extreme act of faith to claim them as the major basis of the proposed savings. In addition the expectation that existing personnel will just pick up the work of the deputies and commissioners shows a surprising lack of understanding of the role of civil service and unions in the public sector.
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How were many financial exports from Enron quoted during their deliberations and were found guilty of stretching it……….just say’in. These numbers are not real.
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While it’s absolutely true the council has “no jurisdiction to approve or disapprove the Charter Commission’s results,” they do have the authority, as Albany Law School professor Robert Batson states in the article, to approve or disapprove the spending of taxpayer dollars on things like the mailing the commission wants to do to voters.
Our dollars can only be spent on efforts by the Commission to educate the public about the charter not to advocate for it. A financial statement that is inaccurate and paints a rosier than possible picture for what’s ahead if we change governments seems to me to be an effort at a sales job not an honest effort to inform the public of what they can reasonably expect from a change to a city manager. If the Commission refuses to make reasonable changes to their financial analysis such as including transition costs then they should use some of the private funds they have raised to say whatever they want.
At the last city council meeting Commissioner Scirocco moved to work with the Commission to have all Council members see copies of materials the Commission wanted taxpayers to pay for before they are sent out. His motion passed unanimously.
I for one applaud Council efforts to see that tax dollars are spent appropriately.
So you, Madigan and Franck are who get to decide what constitutes as “reasonable changes”? You, Madigan and anyone other than the Charter Commission don’t get that privilege. Your privilege is to cast your single vote.
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I’m sorry but you are wrong. They are the ones responsible for where OUR money goes and if the charter commissions publication does not meet the requirements of education as opposed to advocting they have the responsiblity (as opposed to right) to say NO!
Disgusted Democrat, you are mistaken regarding the Albany Law School Professor Batson.
“The city does not have the legal authority or the power to stand in the way of the public finding out what’s in the charter,” Boyd said.
Robert Batson, Albany Law School professor who specializes in government law, said that is true. He said the city must pay for the budgetary costs incurred by the Charter Review Commission as long as they are reasonable. Still, he said, any flyer or brochure sent out by the commission must be factual, informative and educational. It cannot be advocacy. As long as the financials are factual which they are, eliminating 5 Deputy’s salaries & benefits and replace them with Department heads now working for the City i.e. Police Chief, Fire Chief, City Clerk, City Accessor, Public Works Director & 2 City Engineers and a very capable Finance Dept. can run the departments they do now with a CEO (City Manager). This info is factual, informative and educational. It is not advocacy. The Council can pass any resolution it wants it cannot stop payment on any of this information. The lawsuit that may arise from the Council withholding payment may result in the possible removal of any City official going against State law.
Is it factual if it is so incorrect that it cannot possibly be done. There is no way that those already employed can pick up the job of the deputies. One, they currently work more than 40 hours a week. Two, the employees that are supposedly picking up these responsibilities are Union and you must know that if they are given additional duties the Union will expect them to be paid accordingly and if they need to work extra hours to get it done, that will cost plenty! A good accountant or financial person can make something look good on paper that is not possible in real life. It is fortunate you have someone on the council who sees through this and is willing to educate US rather than simply spend OUR money.
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”