Quest for Transparency - Am I a Worrywart?
This blog has been designed as a vehicle for transparency. I tell you about my experiences in Kewaunee City Council and what I know about happenings in City Hall. I go to all the Council meetings. I read through all the packet materials, especially the financials. I have studied several past years of audit reports. I read through the check register every month and I watch the budget item by item. I ask questions—lots of questions. If I find something out of the ordinary, it shows up in this blog. With all of this homework and question asking, I am still worried that I don’t know what’s going on.
There are some things that worry me. But before I get into those, let me restate the current situation for context. We have not had a treasurer for almost three months. We have an Interim Administrator who has been working for a little over two months. Our audit is due in the upcoming weeks. And lately our mayor has missed most meetings. So given all that, here are my worries. I offered to help with accounting, but my offer was outright dismissed. When our financials didn’t show up in the packet a few weeks ago, the council did vote to hire a CPA firm to help with bookkeeping and keep our financial obligations on track, but we have no information on any financial happenings since February 8, 2022. This firm said they would point out illegal acts if they identify them. Why is that necessary—are illegal acts an issue? This is very worrisome to me. I’ve been promised these financial reports for this upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting, so I’m hoping that will happen. How else will I know if money is being spent without Council authorization? And then there is the suggestion from the interim administrator that the city borrow a million dollars.
Let’s just look at that last issue. For context, our city brings in property taxes for the entire city each year that totals about a million dollars. So a million dollars is a lot of money for our city. We got a $404K bank loan last year and we refinanced several million in existing debt. Our credit is not close to perfect because we have spent more than we take in during the past few years. And suddenly we are asked to consider a new million dollar loan. What will the audit report tell us about our finances? Readers, you tell me—should I be worried?
The treasurer quits. The administrator quits. We are not allowed to see the accounting system. We now have auditors and accountants handling our financials. And the mayor doesn’t show up for meetings. I for one, am worried that our mayor will give up his office just as a large shoe is about to drop. Am I overreacting? Is the fate of Luxemburg with their massive tax hike, a possibility here? I don’t know. I don’t know why the council does not have access to these answers. I don’t know why our calls to reinstate the finance committee over the past nine months have been denied. For decades we have had a finance committee, but it was removed under the previous administrator.
Some may call me a worrywart. The mayor says that I am always looking for conspiracies and scandal. Some even say that the city just needs to borrow every penny it can. I believe each city should make their books plainly available on their website. Every person should be able to see every financial record, no matter how small. There are many cities in Wisconsin that do just that. And as long as people hide things, I will keep looking. And I will keep writing.
Thanks for listening,