To The Daily Sun,
In Fiscal Year 2015-16, two resolutions regarding state and federal DOJ Drug Forfeiture Fund were listed on Laconia's City Council action agenda. Ultimately, these resolutions were tabled. Yet, in spite of pending Superior Court final order, the council reintroduces the same two resolutions.
What was and is problematic is neither is unanticipated new revenues in terms of a specific Drug Forfeiture Fund Share application or award. Moreover, the offsetting revenue is not listed in the municipal budget, because it's off-budget. The two resolutions give the impression that two new Drug Forfeiture Fund shares were applied for in accordance with state and federal guidelines and awarded for these specific amounts, none of which are documented.
It's been said that off-budget expenditures weaken a government's financial control, unable to control the trend in government spending, eroding transparency. It is logical to suppose that they escape budget controls.
In addressing the problem of off-budget expenditures, one should focus on the factors that facilitate or impede budget control, not on the accounting issue alone. The real spending decisions are made outside of the budget framework and circumvent the majority vote of the council to appropriate funds for every line-item purpose in the annual budget, which the city manager, chief administrator supervises the expenditure of those funds.
The truth is that money for the new Police Department individual line items exists but is not found in the budgets — current budget or proposed annual budget. The existing money cannot be new or unexpected revenue. The two special bank accounts have a combined total of $38,743.72.
Accordingly, the new surveillance equipment and the other unknown secret item should be a simple transfer request seeking approval of the council to establish the new line items offset by existing revenues. In effect, off-budget accounts are being used as additional contingency accounts which are not allowed.
What is problematic is that the sum of $38,743.72 is not included in the revenue side of the balance budget and therefore out of the preview of the council or public. Also, it is unknown who the administrator or trustee of these funds is or are. What is clear is that the money according to the City Charter states that all funds received on behalf of the city shall be delivered to the city clerk who shall record the deposit and forward the money to the treasurer. Why it is not part of the general fund, listed as a carry-forward? One of the many questions to be answered is how does the total revenues absent the $38,743.72 impact the tax cap?
The city manager, chief administrative officer will summarily oversee all supplemental line item as with all the individual line items that make up the annual grand total appropriation for the current fiscal year. Therefore, no special action by the council is required regarding any special "accept" and "expend" additional authority.
Fraud and abuse have become widespread concerns in many counties and municipalities. The controls that once guarded against the misuse of public funds seem incapable of restoring trust to public expenditure. The Laconia City Manager placed two resolutions on the council's agenda regarding Drug Forfeiture Fund Share — one regarding the state's Department of Justice and another for Federal DOJ. Both resolutions 2015-22 and 2015-23 are to authorize the city manager to "accept" and "expend" UNANTICIPATED REVENUE in the amount of $8,000 and $9,891.32 which in fact is inaccurate, as these funds reside in off-budget accounts. The offsetting moneys, to pay for two new purposes (line items in the Police Department budget), have existed for years, off budget, in two bank accounts having a balance of $28,851.40, of which $8,000 is intended to encumber in accordance with Resolution 2015-22, the purpose purchasing of surveillance equipment.
Resolution 2015-23 encumbers $9,891.32 from existing bank account having a balance of $9,892.32 to purchase unknown secret item or items both have been approved by the City Council simply because it's free money, not taxpayer dollars.
The documents associated with these public noticed resolutions as requested for review, under the Right-to-Know, were not provided and could not be because they do not exist. The off-budget funds being used for equipment and other unknown purpose for the most part have existed since 2009 and only made public as City's Exhibit #1, 139 pages of documents.
Thomas A. Tardif