Stanley must share blame as part of his plan to fix city’s financial woes (April 11, 1999)

By Ourviews

Call it election-year politics, or bad timing for Mayor Woodrow Stanley, or just the fruits of bad management. Whatever the reason for the rash of financial irregularities that have plagued the city of Flint recently, the fact remains that something must be done to safeguard public dollars are restore the public’s confidence.

In doing so, there also must be preventative action taken to make sure such errors don’t happen again.

Just this year, The Journal has uncovered a laundry list of events and circumstances that have shaken the public’s confidence in city government, or at least questioned Stanley’s judgment when it comes to government appointments. But more importantly they have caused great speculation of an even bleaker financial picture than what the surface reveals.

In February the city was forced to put $1.1 million in its pension system to cover the amount of interest that would have been generated on more than $20 million in employee contributions had the money not sat in the wrong account for more than a year.

Last month city officials announced that they might have misdirected $1 million in property tax payments to local entities.

Then the state treasury’s office accused the city of failing to forward industrial facility taxes that it collected for tax abatement areas during the past three years.

The state later came down on the city for being more than three months late with its annual audit of city finances, possibly impairing the city’s ability to borrow money.

In response to these problems, Stanley on Wednesday outlined his remedy.

  1. Appointment of Matthew Grady III as director of the city’s Finance Department.
  2. The creation of a three- to five-member review committee made up of financial experts who will review city financial policies.
  3. Hiring accounting firm Arthur Andersen to provide consulting to the finance department.
  4. Recommending the Flint Retirement Board hire an independent retirement fund administrator.

All four moves make good sense, and should help prevent future mishaps. But concerns and questions still loom. How did the city get to this point financially? Are these problems a sign of an even bigger problem yet to be revealed?

Stanley was quick to cite his disappointment in former Finance Director Marc Puckett, who resigned after seven years as the city’s finance chief just as these events began to unravel. Whether Puckett is to blame for all of these irregularities remains to be discovered. But wherever fault lies it must be shared by Stanley.

As mayor he is responsible for appointing people with the credentials and ability to handle enormous tasks. Should something go astray in any department his appointees head, it reflects negatively on the city and its leadership.

Hopefully Stanley’s Four Point Fiscal Integrity Plan will rectify the current situation and help avoid future turmoil.

Copyright Flint Journal / MLive Media Group ( Used with permission.

Files dealing with Marc Puckett