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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


$93k and Hit Lists

In our last audit, one issue that was of great concern to me and other council members was a discrepancy between the city's books and our bank balances to the tune of about $93,000. On Friday we heard from Assistant City Manager Chuck Ahl that the accounting errors had been tracked down by the Finance Department and the accounts are now balanced.

He explained in an e-mail to the City Council:
The memo report provides an explanation of the $93,000 issue that was raised as part of the 2008 audit. In summary, it reveals that an accounting error [or actually accounting errors] explain the discrepancy between the cash that the banks report is available for the City and the cash that our accounting system indicates that we should have.

In very rough terms, a major accounting error involved the receipt of funds from the Republican National Convention for the Police overtime services. In effect, it was double counted as cash received and an accounts receivable. That payment was for over $126K, but after the other adjustment calculations, it amounted to the $93,000+ issue.
I'm very pleased to know that this has been resolved. We had assumed that it amounted to a data-entry error like this, but it's still good to have it tracked down definitively.

In the bigger picture, this is an example of the ways the city is still recovering from the damage done in the disastrous period of Copeland's mismanagement, at the behest of Longrie, Cave and Hjelle. That triumvirate came into office with a hit list of people they wanted to see fired -- Erik Hjelle notoriously listed his personal targets in an April 8, 2006 Pioneer Press article. After the city's finance director (one of the people Erik was quoted as wanting to see driven out) resigned in late 2006, the assistant finance director did not stay for very many months longer before she took a job offer from another city. Ultimately I believe we lost something like 75% of the employees in Finance, and as this reconciliation demonstrates, this department is still in the process of recovering.

This is something to keep in mind when you hear about would-be mayors and councilmembers who, like Erik, seem to be assembling their own hit lists of employees they would like to get rid of, should they be elected. Besides the institutional damage, it's also of course worth remembering the costs of legal fees, settlements, judgements, and insurance increases that Erik's hit list brought upon the city.

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