Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why Care About East Point, GA?

A week ago Sunday, the Times Herald ran the headline "Crandall Jones To Become Next Norristown Municipal Administrator." Take a moment to go read the article (it's not long), AND the comments below it, then come back.

To correct one point in the Times Herald article: East Point, Georgia does NOT have an arts district.

Since that article was printed, the meeting for tonight (August 15th) has been cancelled. Council intends to appoint Mr. Jones at next Tuesday's (Aug. 20th) Council Meeting at 7 pm at Municipal Hall. Residents should consider coming to that meeting, or dropping an email to ALL our councilpersons, or calling Municipal Hall to leave a message, or all three.

If you do an internet search for "Crandall Jones," you'll find a lot of newspaper articles and TV news reports about his tenures in his last 2 jobs, as Manager for Jackson County, GA (2 years) and as City Manager for East Point, GA (2007-2011). I won't comment about the articles here, though I've listed the links down below. Read them for yourself and make up your own mind.

On the Diary today, I'll cover only one issue in regards to Mr. Jones.

An independent audit was just concluded for East Point ( by Felton Forensics, LLC. The audit cover the years 2000-2012.  $200 million were unaccounted for. The audit stated  "...there were violations of the City's procurement codes. In addition, pertinent accounts payable files for the years 2008 through 2010 were incomplete or missing." Further down the same page: "Key physical documents such as city-issued credit card statements documenting expenditures, bills of lading documenting receipt of goods purchased, and invoices documenting payments, were either missing or destroyed in direct violation of the State of Georgia's Retention Schedules for Local Government Records."

The audit cites 85 different invoices from one vendor, between 2008 and 2011, that weren't entered through the normal check distribution process, resulting in $6.9 million not being reported as paid to that vendor. In addition, many vendors were paid under a fake EIN number--172 vendors in 2011 alone--meaning no 1099s were reported to the IRS for those companies.

East Point's City Procurement Code requires the use of bidding for purchases over $5000. For the entire 12 years of the audit, purchases over $5000 were routinely split into smaller invoices to avoid the bidding process. Mr. Jones administration continued this practice. For instance, a purchase of $8,961.69 on 2/3/11, listed 2 entries of $4,480.00 and 4,481.69, both with the same purchase order and invoice number.

For all I know, we do this in Norristown, too. A lot of big contracts never seem to go through a bidding process. But we ought to be trying to correct that, not continue it.

I'm not saying Mr. Jones was personally to blame for the financial mess of East Point, but as city manager, he was responsible for what happened on his watch.

Many of the Norristown residents I've spoken to would like our Council to slow down their process of hiring Crandall Jones. We aren't saying NOT to hire him, but handle the matter prudently, the way they should handle all matters. Instead of "appointing" Mr. Jones at the Council meeting on August 20th, without giving information to the taxpayers or allowing them to comment, use the meeting to:

1. Make the details of the candidate search available to the taxpayers, including the names of the top five candidates.
2. Explain to the public why Mr. Jones is the best candidate for the job.
3. Explain why the East Point audit showing, at best, questionable accounting practices should have no bearing on the hiring of Mr. Jones.
4. INVITE PUBLIC COMMENT for a period of 30 days. Schedule the vote for next month's meeting.

So please contact your councilpersons and express your views. Here are their addresses:

Because Norristown taxpayers would like what happened in East Point to stay in East Point.


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