By Stephen Rossi: (Credentials Click Here)
Greetings Fellow South Pasadena Residents & South Pasadena Finance Commission:
The next finance commission meeting is eminent, and their recommendations to City Council for vote are based on what has presented to be incorrect reporting from the city finance department.
Despite my best efforts to request agenda material information from City Staff with sufficient time to review the materials prior to the meeting as required under the Brown Act, Staff did not respond to my requests and only saw fit to post the relevant budget materials extremely late in the day.
As such, it was impossible to review the financial information provided and develop a coherent analysis prior to the public comment deadline.
As a result, I am reaching out to the finance commission and South Pasadena residents directly.
I believe the statements made in the Cover Letter in the Finance Commission Agenda Report dated 6/18/20 and provided by Finance Director, Karen Aceves, are materially misrepresentative of the true facts surrounding the financial information provided.
In both the 5/26 Draft Budget & the 5/29 Draft Budget presented to the City Council on 6/10 (which was neither the 5/26 nor the 5/29 drafts) and the information posted to the Agenda packet on 6/17 in advance of the 6/18 Finance Commission meeting appears to be a convoluted mix of inaccurate finance reports.
Decisions by the South Pasadena City Council, and the South Pasadena Finance Commission that have been based on the 6/10 city council meeting finance presentation are, at the very least, misinformed.
As an overarching comment, the Cover Letter serves to understate the actual volume and magnitude of the changes made between the two drafts – only 3 days apart. In total there were at least 127 changes totaling $14.3 million in adjustments…much more significant than the $50K of “net” changes that Staff represents in the Agenda materials.
Further, without being presented with a full budget in the Agenda materials, it is impossible to tell if the numerous errors, omissions, and questionable assumptions surrounding the prior two drafts of the budget have as yet been corrected.
The only information that is known is this:
- On 5/26, Staff presented an incomplete and error riddled budget to the Finance Commission.
- On 5/29, Staff provided a vastly different budget in the City Council agenda packet for review, but still riddled with errors
- On 6/10, Staff presented a third, different budget. NOT the budget included in City Council Agenda packet, which raises additional Brown Act concerns
- On 6/17, Staff presented the Finance Commission with a cherry-picked “subset” of changes made between the 5/26 and 5/29 drafts…but again, has not provided a complete listing of the adjustments made, choosing instead to focus on hand selected changes that serve to minimize the appearance of changes made.
- As of 6/18 the 2018/19 audit is still not completed and is approximately six months late
- The best explanation Staff can come up with to date is that it’s the prior “Finance Director’s fault.” Nearly three years later and running the department as DeWolfe sees fit, with her own hires in charge of the department, and she is still blaming the prior administration for failures resulting from current day actions and decisions…hmm, seems that I’ve heard that somewhere before.
The City Council has put the Finance Commission in a tough position, and I respect the decision the finance commission is faced with today. However, the Finance Commission took on an ethical, if not fiduciary, responsibility to the City residents when accepting appointments to the Finance Commission. That includes not serving as a “rubber-stamp” committee, and not blindly approving a budget that has been slammed together quickly, without sufficient financial acumen, clearly without quality control checks or procedures, and without the benefit of a completed financial audit that is already inexplicably delayed.
Do the right thing and kick the budget back to Staff to await the completion of the 2018/19 audit.
Report created and submitted for publishing by Stephen Rossi, South Pasadena resident and finance expert.
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