By Sheila Tully, Council District 2
Our city is in a financial crisis. No budget. No audit. No interim financial reporting. Five Finance Directors in the past three years. The sixth director is now on a sudden and unexplained leave of absence. Turnover in the Finance Department and pending litigation from a previous Finance Director. Rising litigation expenses. Questions about the totality of our pension/medical liabilities. A pandemic with no end in sight thrusting our town and businesses into further financial uncertainty.
The list of candidates for the vacant District 2 Council seat was published on Monday 8/31. I was happy to see several highly qualified candidates for Council raise their hands to serve our town. Given that, it is important to understand why more than 330 South Pas residents have lined up behind Steve Rossi. Here’s why:
- The seat will be filled for an interim period of only 77 days at which point the elected District 2 councilmember will be sworn in. Those 77 days are going to be consequential. The 2018-19 audit needs to be completed, the 2019-20 audit needs to be started, the 2020-21 budget needs to be understood and passed, and we need to implement fundamental financial reporting on a periodic basis starting with catching up on the City’s bank reconciliations which are currently almost a full year behind.
- The 2020-21 budget was approved by the Finance Commission, made up of volunteer residents, on May 26th. Three days later, the City Manager submitted a budget for City Council approval with $14 million in unexplained changes. This is unheard of and extremely alarming. Steve Rossi, a concerned resident, was the person who noticed it.
- This incident set off alarm bells. Bill Kelly (Natural Resources and Environmental Commission member) held a public Zoom call to discuss the details. On that call, Steve Rossi presented his findings, outlining concerns, irregularities, and serious red flags – particularly regarding the status of the audit.
- In the June 18th emergency meeting of the Finance Commission, Finance Director Karen Aceves committed to completing the outstanding audit by mid-July. Inexplicably, just a week later at an emergency meeting of the City Council called to discuss the budget irregularities, Aceves changed that timeline to October.
- Since then, no questions have been adequately answered.
We need a solid, experienced finance person on City Council right now, someone who is ready and able to hit the ground running.That person is Steve Rossi. You can read Steve’s professional background here.
We appreciate the other candidates who have raised their hands to take on this tough job. But the truth is Steve is the only one who is prepared to jump in on day one and maximize those 77 days. He has been deep in the trenches on these critical issues and many people in town have consulted Steve to better understand this financial mess, including members of both the City Council and the Finance Commission. Steve’s professional expertise in financial restructurings and turnarounds makes him particularly well suited for the moment.
I respectfully submit that it would be negligent not to put a person with actual first-hand knowledge and deep financial expertise on Council when we have the chance. Luckily, we have that person in Steve Rossi. He has offered to help AND the community trusts and supports him.
All problems have solutions and our financial problems do too. But real expertise matters. Without Steve Rossi, we may have never known about the $14 million unexplained discrepancies, and this financial crisis might have been much, much worse. We need to give our full support to the one resident who actually exposed the problems in the first place, and is best suited to help get us out of this mess.
That’s why the town is lining up to support Steve Rossi as Interim Council Member for District 2.
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