Friday, March 28, 2008

ANSWER QUESTIONS AT BD MEETINGS

Some of the citizens who attend Board meetings have complained that we do not respond to questions from citizens. It's a valid criticism.
I am suggesting the following policy change. Citizens who have questions that they would like to ask the commissioner at a Board meeting should submit the question to the Town Clerk by 5 PM on Tuesday before the Wednesday evening Board meeting. At the beginning of the meeting the clerk will read the question, call on the commissioner to answer the question. At the conclusion of the question and answer session we will resume citizen comments.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Valhalla audit is in! Check it out at:

www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/2008/valhalla.pdf

Anonymous said...

I couldn't get to it. Can you give a better website, and/or summarize the report.

Anonymous said...

http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/2008/valhalla.pdf

Anonymous said...

http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/2008/
valhalla.pdf

Anonymous said...

http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/
2008/valhalla.pdf

pretty damning report said...

Audit Results
The Board did not provide suffi cient oversight over District fi nancial operations. We identifi ed
signifi cant defi ciencies in the internal controls over the accounting for and disbursement of Grant
monies, payment of employee compensation and fringe benefi ts, the Treasurer’s offi ce and
computerized data.

Anonymous said...

Paul
Hopefully you and the Town Board do not give anymore money to Valhalla. they never did anything for a town wide purpose. On top of that, no kids from westhelp go to Vahalla schools, Why should they get money.Westhelp is not a burden on the school district or the property values.

A budget money must remain said...

paul now has the three votes to stop this illegality.

juettner and sheehan as educators should be ashamed of their cowardice when the bullies from valhalla came storming.

paul - this is A budget money and should stay in the town of greenburgh to help all of the town's taxpayers.

this is something A and B budget folks should agree on.
A budget helps B budget taxpayers too.

Anonymous said...

Paul,

Why isn't the Valhalla School Audit on the Greenburgh web site? It seems as if you and the Town Board want to run away from the State Comptroller's report.

Anonymous said...

Internal Controls Over Selected Financial Operations
The Board did not provide sufficient oversight over District financial operations. We identified significant deficiencies in the internal controls over the accounting for and disbursement of WestHELP Grant monies, payment of employee compensation and fringe benefits, the Treasurer’s office and computerized data. For example, of the approximately $1.7 million expended for the Grant, approximately $456,000 was not expended in accordance with the Grant agreement, proposals or applicable laws. Furthermore, the Business Administrator chose to be reimbursed for a term life insurance policy that combined death benefit protection with the opportunity to direct the investment of net premium dollars into a broad portfolio of investment options. This selection provided him with benefits greater than provided for in his contract, resulting in $38,500 in unnecessary costs to District taxpayers. Finally, District officials paid a retired transit police officer as a vendor, while also occasionally paying him as an employee through the normal payroll process. As a result, this employee may have received retirement benefits in excess of the amounts allowed by law and the District may be held liable for taxes, penalties and interest.

Anonymous said...

A typical Paulist proposal - citizens should know before a topic is discussed what questions may arise from the discussion!
Absurdity and Greenburgh,a winning combination.

Anonymous said...

No matter what Paul does he is criticized. If he says day, anonymous says night. Get a life!

Anonymous said...

Judith Beville and the Town Council really are listening to citizens. So, refreshing.

Anonymous said...

isn't Judith Beville on thr Valhalla school board?

ed krauss said...

To the Board:

One of you indicated to me that he (that eliminates both women) was satisfied with the "answers" given to my library construction questions, and I should be satisfied. Because, the Board is! And, we can "agree to disagree."

I would like to disabuse you of that shallow excuse, beause I'm virtually certain the rest of you know better, or should.

You don't bring up the subject because it's more than a "once over lightly" matter. It would take work, and hard work at that.

So, as I told you in my email to you, I will be on your case until such time as the questions are answered PROPERLY- not to give me what I'm looking for, but the TRUTH.

What continues to surprise me is that you are not interested( or show no interest) to know what that truth is. You seem to be the little kid who covers his eyes and says, "you can't see me."

When the truth comes out, the NEW board won't be able to escape the fact they KNEW the questions to ask and the areas to investigate, but had other, more important (than a $19.8 million expenditure) issues to deal with. Like, come to think of it, there has NEVER been anything resembling a $19.8 million dollar issue or anything close to it since Cyrus Field owned Greenburgh. Or more recently since the Lewisohns donated tons of acreage to the Ardsley and Central 7 school ditricts.

So, if you agree with your colleague, "clap your hands at the next pubic meeting(only I will know what you're doing and won't be embarrassing.) If not, get you butts in gear and find out what is "really" happening to our millions.

hal samis said...

From one who asks a lot of questions and often doesn't get answers, this is a major step forward. There is no question that it represents another concession to making the Town Board meeting and the functions of government more transparent -- something that Feiner (now joined by Ms. Beville) has continued to expand.

Part of the problem is that the Department heads treat the Public like they were subordinates, employees in their department.
The Department heads work for and are paid by the Public. That they find some questions embarrassing is not a valid reason to ignore the questions. And tough questions are what it is all about.

As I understand it, the offshoot of this new addition to the Agenda is actually another opportunity for the Public to "get its lumps in" because by submitting questions in advance, the Public doesn't lose any of its existing limited time before the Town Board AND, if the Department head "answers" but it is not really an answer to the question, the Public can pick up the thread during the following public comment period.

Then too, putting the answer period ahead of the public comment re-arranges an illogical (to me) concept arising from Roberts Rules of Order: new business ahead of old business.
Both items should be dealt with at a meeting but what's the sense of taking on new matters if you don't clear up old ones?

The problem, though, is that there is no guaranteed mechanism to provide answers to questions that arise from that meeting's Agenda; thus leaving an information/response loophole. Often new items appear that were not present in earlier editions of the Agenda. Since this is not something that consistently occurs, when it does, the Town Board should be willing to provide answers on the spot.
Whereas no one would expect Department Heads to arrive at the meeting with their entire Department in their heads, they should arrive at the meeting versed in what affects their Department as indicated by that night's Agenda.

As for Mr. Krauss' comment, the problem with the "he" is that apparently someone was delegated to play the Eddie Mae Barnes' character and revive the "let's all work together" role. The ignored premise is that it is not the Town Board that should be providing the answers: it is the Department heads. That they have in the past learned that they need not be responsible because, absent systems to chart their performance, they have adapted (read survived) by running their departments like Greenburgh were some outpost in the wild west. As the Public has become more intrusive and more adept at cutting through the bullshit, they are floundering because they don't have the systems to use for even their own defense.

And nothing makes these Department heads more vulnerable than the broader interest that rises to the surface when taxes rise sharply.

It is understandable that the Town Board would seek to shelter the Department heads from scrutiny and the resulting criticism -- the Town Boards appoint and renew these appointments.

However, this year's Samis mission is to focus on the budget, operating and capital. The Library expansion and its Board of Trustees are already well beyond the fail safe point to self-destruct and don't need my input --the paper and video trail are documented. I am the "I told you so kind of guy" and I eagerly await the grand opening of the new Library having already put in my order for "I told you so" reminders.

This leaves me more time to get serious about the Police Department, the DPW (which cries out to be split in two), the Planning Department AND, the Assessor's office which is the number one target and the number one problem for matters financial.

Too many cert "settlements" versus going to Court and the absence of reassessment for some high profile parcels -- think Midway and BMW.

So, Assessor, what's the story?

Mr. Sheehan's last year crusade on behalf of tax relief for firemen was a costly but insignificant foray into "doing the right thing" while diverting the workload away from ratables protection and turned instead to solving trivia.
But Mr. Sheehan wanted to harvest firemen votes so he had to proceed despite the cost to taxpayers. Another example of spearheading an issue but prepared having the excuse already drafted in his laptop. But with the new software, says the Assessor, this will be less of a problem in the "future".

The larger portion of the iceberg is the past and present and there are big bucks to the Town that aren't being billed because the Assessor is too busy -- hiring outside appraisers, outside counsel, etc. -- all for the purpose of losing cert applications.

Let's "urge" her to reassess some properties as a priority. The first step in reassess is to get off your ass.

run samis run said...

samis for
assessor?

hal samis said...

Here's two questions that just came to mind.

Does the Town Board need to conduct a public hearing if they amend the budget again; this time to reflect the elimination of the position, Town Attorney?

A contract dated December 19, 2007 was signed by the Town Supervisor.
Did the hostile Town Board (Bass, Barnes, Juettner, Sheehan) approve this contract?

I'm sure I've forgotten to ask something important but maybe someone else will think of it.

ed krauss said...

The question Mr. Samis may be looking for is, "with the Sword of Damocles i.e.the Finneran law,hanging over our heads, how could anyone enter into this, or any, kind of similar agreement?"

Amending the law will take months, if it is amendable at all. So if the Sportime offer was "take it or leave it", the answer should have been "sorry, we have to take a pass."

Another question could be, how, if at all, can we extricate ourselves from this doomed situation?

The next question is, "who vetted this agreement, and who, if anyone, recommended or approved it from the standpoint of a fair and equitable contract for Greenburgh"?

The last question is, "what is wrong with this town to repeat this kind of bigtime, seven figure folly?"

I don't know which is worse, the joke that is known as the 'Greenburgh Library Construction" project, or this more current misstep. The latter was significanly easier to avoid, but there is a thead - that of the Sword ofDamocles- which has an eery ring to it.

More importantly, how can we stop these kinds of things from reocurring?

Anonymous said...

Dear Hal: The appointment of Mike Kolesar should result in more transparency in government. Much more information will be released to the public.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hal: The appointment of Mike Kolesar should result in more transparency in government. Much more information will be released to the public.

frank lee said...

Mr. Feiner, Ms. Beville and the Town Council:

Thank you for addressing a lingering concern of your constituents.

I applaud you for taking another step for open and productive government.

Keep up the good work.

Despite the criticisms of Greenburgh's anonymous residents, I appreciate your efforts.

Concerned citizen said...

Hey paul

Here's a novel idea, why don't you have a question and answer session with the public at the beginning of each meeting.