Free Lunches and Other Perks For City Commissioners Need to Stop.

Slogan “ Everything Under the Sun” was not supposed to apply to Spending Habits of 4 City Commissioners as  Commissioner Expense Report shows wasteful spending prevelant.

 

– by Howard Melamed

Coral Springs, Florida  05/20/14

City Commissioners have a fiduciary responsibility to spend taxpayer money wisely, since it is not their money.   In my review of the practice of certain city commissioners and only reviewing one budget item called Commissioner expenses,  I have found that thousands of dollars are being wasted, needlessly which tells me that  a review is needed for all other areas of city expenses, to insure that a culture of spending and entitlements is not prevelent.   This is not based on fiction but rather facts obtained from a report of expenses from the city commissioners.

 

Public Request For Information: City Commissioner Expenses

Since I decided to run for City Commissioner Seat #4 this November, I have been doing what one would call due diligence, to get a handle on how the city is being run, and what is being done with our tax money.   Sort of the same type of discovery I do when buying property or businesses.  The tool that I am using is what is given to all of us namely, the right for any citizen to request any document that the city has .  In the case of looking at the expenses of city commissioners, I sent a Public Request For Information concerning the budget of the city commissioner and details of expenses that they have incurred during Fiscal 2013.   The main document is a 42 page  PDF file of all of the expense details ( Click here) which I encourage you to download and review to make sure of the facts I am presenting.  The other document is a PDF of budget showing what was paid out and how much is being spent this year.

 

Commission Budget 2013 Line Item versus Actual Commission Expenses Detailed 2013

The commission  budget has some items in it that deserve our attention. For instance, there is a surplus  of $50,000 on the $325,000 budget yet, the commissioners increased the 2014 budget.  Then there is the issue of Health Insurance, with expected expenditure to be $72,000 but only $55,000 was spent.  Speaking to previous Mayor Roy Gold, cleared up the fact that some previous members of the commission pay for their own health care since the rates are great and they then reimburse the city.  These reimbursements may be the resulting difference or the city manager may be concerned for other payouts.  2014 budget has not changed.

 

Commissioner Claudette Bruck ( Seat 4  )  represents almost 1/4 of the surplus since she has not participated in memberships, trips, and other entitlements compared to the Gang of 4.,  Mayor Boccard, Commissioners Vignola, Powers and Daley.

 

When you look at the Commission Expenses Detailed, Page 1, there is a  bill for $6 reimbursed for diet cokes purchased at the Chevron gas station located across the street from city hall.  Why would anyone have asked to be reimbursed for something so petty as $6 and for drinks?   I do not know if a city commissioner ran across the street starving for a diet coke, or if they actually sent someone to get them  since they had an emergency shortage of diet cokes that they needed to go to the Chevron Station. ( Publix would have been cheaper 🙂 ) .  It is the point of it.  At the start of my investigation, the 6 bucks told me I was in for a real surprise.  I was not let down.

 

Reviewing further, displayed   a culture of spending and entitlements with most of the  4 out of the 5 city commissioners, namely Mayor Boccard, Commissioners Vignola, Powers and Daley. From free lunches to monogrammed shirts and non accountable allowances all served to them as some sort of entitlement.  Wasteful spending in travelling  to conferences, the four of them travelled in groups  at our expense to educate themselves or perhaps  provide them a holiday in Las Vegas, a trip to Seattle, or staying at a plush hotel in Boston or Washington.   Perhaps the costly conferences were paid for by taxpayer money to further the political career of one of our politicians.

 

The expenditure on food is to say the least,  disturbing considering that we have no city run soup kitchen and our support of those that are hungry is left to our religious organizations.  At the May Chamber of Commerce meeting attended by three of the five commissioners, paid for by us,  one Coral Springs high school told us how they are Paying it Forward, by giving food bags to homeless people begging on the streets.  Perhaps we need to be looking at who Paid it Backwards with the commissioners being given food from Publix, Pizza, Bagels even   Work Shop Snack Items ( See the expenses since I am not making this up) , only represents entitlements that are inappropriate.

 

But this is not their fault. I believe that some of the commissioners lack the ability to know the difference, since I would hate to think that they are actually doing this because they feel they are entitled to get fed by us.

 

Thousands and thousands of dollars, and our concern should be nonetheless diligent since they are after all in charge of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.   All of this and more , presented here for you to view.

 

Based on these facts I prepared the following executive summary outlining some but not all of the wasteful spending and providing some suggestions that will reduce spending at the city commissioner level as well as reasonable rules to follow.

 

Summary – From  42 Pages of Expenses paid out or reimbursed.

 

Important to note that even though Commissioner Claudette Bruck is a city commissioner,  I found that she spent the least amount compared to any of the other four.  As well, expenses that previous Mayor Roy Gold was entitled to receive as a reimbursement paid to him in 2013,the check was never cashed. Mayor Gold was quite surprised that they even issued him one.

 

Quite evident as well, is that  Commissioner Dan Daley went to the most exhibitions and conferences and stayed at more hotels than even the Mayor.  Important as well, see if you can find it, is the Monogrammed Polo Shirts he got us to pay for.

 

Important Points :

 

-$91,000 of city commissioners salaries on a budget of  $325,000  increased in 2014 even though they had a surplus of $50,000 in 2013.

 

-They take health insurance and past city commissioners with a budget of $72,000 per year and $55,000 actually spent but not reduced in the budget for 2014

 

-Mayor Boccard, Commissioners Vignola, Powers and Daley go to conventions and stay at expensive hotels where the exhibition or conference is held instead of  less expensive hotels nearby. Most of them go at the same time instead of one only , reducing the city expenses.  Commissioner Bruck did not attend ( maybe she was never invited)

 

-By calling meetings that span over breakfast,  lunch or supper, they  require us to feed them.  Drivers are tipped, snacks are given, and there seems to be no restraint.  They even feed others at our expense at committee meetings.

 

-They get an allowance = 20% of their salary as additional play money that is non-accountable , meaning they don’t need to tell anyone where they spend it.   I sent them an email asking for details of these expenses, and if they feel the amount is too much or too little.  I have not received any reply.

 

-When they go to the Coral Springs Chamber of Commerce meetings most of them show up and the city picks up the tab for the meals.  Memberships in other organizations are budgeted and paid, with the exception of Commissioner Bruck who spent the least amount possible. It would be great if Commissioner Dan Daley would do the right thing and at least join up  his Horse Feed ( careful now)  business with the Chamber Of Commerce. We only need one commissioner to be their for the meeting representing the city, so the others are there representing themselves.

 

– Recently I recieved an email directed to Commissioner Vignola with a photo of him and Commissioner Powers at the Broward County League of Cities Gala ( like on the picture )  that both of them attended at our expense.   Was this really necessary?

 

-Instead of picking up documents at the city for whatever reason, they get them delivered to their homes from the city hall by courier service ( Fast Eddies)

 

-The mayor rented 3 cars for Margate’s July 4th parade event.

 

These are only a few items, and there are 42 pages worth for you to review.  I am quite sure you will find other gems.

 

Of course the supporters of Mayor Boccard, Commissioners Vignola, Powers and Daley will claim that it is important that the commissioners be given the money to spend.  It is for the good of the city that we feed them?  Yes or no?

 

As well, I sent a Public Request for those expenses that the city management refused to pay.  I was told that no such list exists.

 

 

Changes that should be enforced that can save the taxpayers money

 

I have about 13 suggestions where we can save at least 100K.

 

  1. Do not increase the city commissioner’s Salary. They are asking to increase their salary more than 64% of the base. However not taken into account is the other perks they get.  Until we get our spending under control, it is not deserved.

 

  1. Stop the allowance or at least make the city commissioners accountable for what they spend. They need to turn in receipts, and if they do not use the allowance, they are given; they need to give the money back. No free rides here. 20% of what they get as a part time salary is given to them as a free allowance. So that means they are really making 20% more! ( Previous commissioner’s used to instruct the city manager at the end of the city commission meeting where to send the money)

 

  1. There is not reason to subsidize healthcare to past city commissioners .  City Commissioners are PART-TIME employees and as such they are not entitled to getting health care, forever.  However if past City Commissioners can get the benefit of great rates, why not open this up to the entire city, to all the citizens?

 

  1. No More FREE lunches. This is not GOOGLE. There are people in this city who are poor and do not have the ability to feed themselves everyday. We have no soup kitchen in our city. If we are going to feed anyone, then let it be those families that really needed it.  Other than that, city commissioners and employees need to feed themselves.  A city commissioner should not order Pizza for the meetings.   Bring a sandwich or salad to work. That is what my employees do.

 

  1. Stop going to conventions and conferences in bunches. There is no reason to send more than one representative to any convention or conference. Rotate them. In my business we send one guy unless we are selling something. There has to be a good reason to spend the money to a conference. A bad reason is for the education of any commissioner or the improvement of their political positions. A good reason is to bring grants to the city. Commissioners are not fulltime employees and if anyone is going to go it should be the expert staff member since they are fulltime .

 

  1. No More Limo rides. We have enough cars in the city, and enough drivers. When I go to the airport, I get one of my employees to drive me. There are many employees at the city with city vehicles. Get a lift.

 

  1. No more spending city money for gifts or flowers or anything for a particular individual or a particular company unless we do it for every company or individual. That does not mean we cannot hand out awards, or give appreciation at the city commission meetings. Make a proclamation but keep your hands out of our pockets.

 

  1. Instead of City Commissioners ordering monogrammed shirts  let them wear a  simple badge that says their name on it and their position. Unless of course they want to buy the shirt themselves, using their remaining campaign donations from their election.

 

  1. Instead of picking up documents at the city, they get them delivered to their homes from the city hall by courier service ( Fast Eddies)

 

  1. The Mayor should not rent cars for other city’s parades.

 

  1. Let’s review our membership in organizations that we cannot justify a return on the investment.  Thousands of dollars are spent to sign up a commissioner or the city.  We cannot spend money just to further a commissioners political career.

 

  1. The commissioners should support the drinking of filtered city water at their meetings.

 

  1. Reduce the budget for the next year by the amount of money not spent the year before, rather than increasing it.

 

By doing most of the above the city would save 1/3 of the budget of the city commissioners.  The amount is not important in as much as the discipline and  control.

 

I did not review other years, and I have no reason not to believe that the culture of wasteful spending and lack of control is not exclusive to the four commissioners that run the city now.

 

So they are asking us for a raise and yet they have shown no restraint when it comes to spending our money.  Electing the same members of the same gang will not result in good news for the future of this city when it comes to  fiscal spending.

 

Unless stopped at the next election, the current commissioners and their appointed candidates, will be overseeing the building of the city hall at a cost of 25 million with little or no expectation of making sure that every dollar spent of public money is well spent.

 

Now I know where they got the slogan that we paid $75,000 for .  “Everything Under the Sun ” refers to their spending habits.

 

Then again,  Mayor Boccard, Commissioners Vignola, Powers and Daley believe that none of this information is important since no voter will read this anyways.

 

Really ?

Author: HelpMeHoward