Mount Vernon – Mt. Vernon Councilman Richard Thomas Issues Response Letter to Comptroller Maureen Walker In What He Says Are Her Efforts to Distort the Truth Regarding Fiscal Mismanagement; Says, “Answer the Subpoena, Open the Books, Transparency is Perverse”
Your letter is full of misinformation and counterproductive to conducting an honest dialogue about Mt. Vernon’s financial situation.
The simple truth is your work should speak for itself, and judging by Mt. Vernon’s excessively high tax rate and sorry business climate, your work has little show. In fact, since you became Comptroller, Mt. Vernon’s tax rate has skyrocketed by 122 percent! Also, millions have gone missing twice, resulting in some going to jail and Mt. Vernon losing a major economic tool, that is, the Housing Authority.
The transparency problem in Mt. Vernon is perverse.
Whenever asked for a City of Mt. Vernon balance sheet, or cash flow statement, your response was, “No –that is proprietary information.” When asked to provide the financial information in excel or supplied via email, your response was, “No – my office is not capable of sending email and will not give information in electronic format.” When subpoenaed to provide public information, you refused to comply twice and demanded an attorney. (See attached.) These actions lead one to wonder what you are hiding.
You could have responded to my concern about the potential double-digit tax hike with empirical facts; however, you chose to lob personal attacks which have no place in public service. My job is to question the information received. And the information you provided was an “expense report” without a corresponding “revenue report” to prove that we can cover expenditures.
Based on a presentation by Mayor Ernest Davis, the City of Mt. Vernon was lead to believe that the fund balance was zero. (See attached.) The auditor reported that Mt. Vernon began fiscal year 2013 with $2.4 million in the unassigned portion of the fund balance, the line typically used to plug budget shortfalls. (See attached) Then, nine months later, you send a letter saying expenses exceeded revenues and we need to transfer millions that we appear to not have on hand.
With this context, an engineering degree is needed to deconstruct the elaborate kiting operation going on before our eyes.
At no time did I say the tax rate was going up in 2013 or 2014. I calculated the estimated impact if the transfer was collected in 2013 or 2014.
The math is sound and logic straightforward. Even during the vote on the transfer, members of the Council expressed caution and concern about not knowing where the funds were coming from. As such, based on the information provided, homeowners appear to be exposed to a double-digit tax hike and this is fiscal mismanagement at its worst.
It would be a relief to avoid a double-digit tax hike but we both know that 2015 is shaping up to be a disaster as you and administration have not achieved the $2.5 million revenue goal from red light cameras and other activities. Further, if grant monies are found to be misused, than millions more will have to be repaid to the authorities.
Keep in mind that the a few years ago, the New York Islanders claimed to be profitable, but upon an independent review, they were found to be in the red. Timely and trustworthy information is essential for decision makers. The disinformation being fed to the Council, or systematically denied, by you and the Mayor may rise to the level of criminal if found to mislead or influence Council votes for any other purpose than to benefit the public.
You have an opportunity to open the books and allow an uninhibited view of Mt. Vernon’s fiscal affairs. My hope is that you stop wasting everyone’s time and start coming clean to the table.
In our continued quest to get to the truth, Black Westchester went to Comptroller Maureen Walker’s office in City Hall, Friday afternoon to give her a chance to address the allegations in Councilman Thomas’ letter.
“You can not go back and adjust taxes and from 2013,” the Comptroller says about Councilman Thomas claims of being over budget. “His problem is that he (Richard Thomas) is he saw six million dollars. The six million dollars was, we spent money, three million dollars for tax certs that we paid out to people who came in and said my taxes are too high, the fought it and we had to pay the over in tax certs. We bonded for that so we had the three million dollars in our hand already… the other three million he’s talking about for recreation and the youth borough, We have all these salaries because they hire a lot of young people, so they will be able to get grants, So during the year you will spend the money from their salaries and everything. but until you spend that money, you can not voucher it from the state, So at the end of the year, you voucher and send it into the state and say I’ve spent the three million dollars in grants that you gave us, send us our money. So there is not budget deficit, there’s no budget gap.”
When we asked for clarification on the projected 19% increase in taxes for next year that been predicted by the Councilman and written about in cover story of the Westchester Guardian, she says, “The budget for next year hasn’t even started, We’re just beginning to start the process now. Nobody knows right now what the tax rate is going to be. He is just trying to scare the people”
She also tells Black Westchester that County Legislator Lyndon Williams should have the complete accounting he told BW he is seeking, “He has that information, the county has sent for that information, requested that information months ago, so he has that,” We will address this with Legislator Williams who has agreed to come appear on BlackWestchester.com presents People Before Politics radio show, Sunday, October 4th and Walker has agreed to come on the show in two weeks or so, when the audit comes in. Walker will come through and break the numbers for us. The saga continues…stay tuned to Black Westchester as we get to the bottom of all of this.