Saturday, October 22, 2011

Commentary on Town Meeting Costs

Carnac the Magnificent has answers - but we're still waiting.

In testimony at Wednesday's special meeting, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs mentioned in passing catering "for over 400 attendees" at the Aug. 1, 2010 Town Meeting. While the focus of the special meeting was on circumstances surrounding a $20,000 payment to radio station WBLS, her comment on catering reminded me that my original Open Public Records Act request was for all costs associated with the Town Meeting:

COST OF AUG. 1 TOWN MEETING, including school rental, speakers’ honorariums or fees, security, setup, including WBLS requirements, cost of videographing, food and supplies, plus any other incidentals.

If indeed food was ordered for the event, how was it paid for? We now know that payments to WBLS included not only the $20,000 from an IT account for "Hardware and Software Maintenance," but also $2,500 from a General Improvement Ordinance 1237 and $2,500 for "Outside Consulting Services." The latter two checks were for appearances by the WBLS "Street Team" and the radio station's van in the July 4th events for 2010. Were other dubious pots of money tapped for food at the Town Meeting?

On other possible costs:

- Plaintalker was advised to check with the school district regarding any costs associated with rental of Washington School for the event. It is possible there was no cost, but rather than ask the district, shouldn't this information be available from the city?

- Based on documentation Plaintalker received last month, both city and school district staff were involved in arranging a special telephone line to be installed for the radio broadcast. The records did not disclose the cost of the installation, nor did they indicate who paid for it, but communications about it went back and forth for a couple of weeks before the event.

- The city requested that the school district provide two security officers for the event. Who paid that cost?

One of the larger questions about this whole episode is why the administration saw fit to devote so much staff time and city resources to something that seems extraneous to core services of municipal government. To say that a panel discussion and a five-minute talk by The Rev. Al Sharpton was a life-saving public safety event - it's a bit of a stretch. Some say the investigation of a $20,000 expenditure is also a stretch, but Plaintalker is inclined to believe that the way the funds were handled reflects on city fiscal policies in general.

With two years to go in the present administration, one hopes citizens will demand more transparency about spending. Certainly residents were able to demand greater accountability from the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority. The same should be possible for city government.



  1. Didn't the mayor sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the state that precluded spending money on food at city functions? Yes she did!

    Can't the mayor jeopardize state and federal funding as a result of all the tomfoolery with the city's finances? Yes she can!

    Will the trio of Reid, Rivers & Greaves ever realize that transparency and accountability are in the best interest of their constituents? Probably not!

    Does pride goeth before the fall? We will see!

  2. I smell a VICTIM here.....I think the only "emergency" we are going to be seeing regarding Plainfield and Mayor SRBs is how long she can keep her core base of mindless zealots in the dark about what a hot mess she truly is.
    And she also commented about the hours she worked at this "part-time" job....IF you don't like this pension padding, err..I mean job, then quit, leave, abscond with the ill-gotten booty you've garnered and GO. Stop doing Plainfield "a favor" by gracing us with your presence.
    Keep the bad publicity going and maybe Jerry will finally tire of covering her butt and boot her out so we can get his next stooge.

  3. Bernice, an "emergency" panel discussion? Planned in advance? It is ridiculous on the face of it, and does not meet the standards for an emergency use of city funds. The mayor knows this. She is already a laughing stock among mayors and other elected officials who have been following this. No one wants to stand close to her because they are stifling their laughter over how idiotic she sounds. If this was an "emergency" what was Katrina?

  4. @6:49AM: The administration decided to forego the extra state aid tied to the MOU in the last fiscal year rather than submit to such limitations.

  5. It's a shame that we have to put up with this joke of a mayor. It's also sad that there are mindless zealots who will vote for Sharon no matter what. I guess that's how George Bush stayed in office for eight years. It's up to the rest of us get rid of this joke and get a mayor who cares about Plainfield and will do a good job for us.

  6. Why does every event in this City, organized by Robinson-Briggs, need to be accompanied by a full blown meal? How about some bottled water and a basket of fresh fruit -- it's cheaper add a lot healthier.

    Every event this woman organizes is a party for her cronies on our tax dollars!

    If your going to spend money Robinson-Briggs, put it towards something that will benefit all residents of Plainfield, like rebuilding the educational system or hiring qualified individuals to work in your administration, or hiring more emergency services personnel.


  7. I continue to ponder the thought that if this was a state of emergency as explained by the Mayor, then why when asked who she consulted with she said Corporation Counsel, Dan Williamson, and special Attorney Lucas Phillips. Why didn't she speak with Director Martin Hellwig since he's over Public Safety? I would have thought he should have been the first to be contacted since she (mayor) thought this was a state of emergency.

    During the last storm (Irene) the schools were closed, I had no power for 6 nights, others sustained flooding, trees were down and that was I guess as far as shes concerned life as usual.

    Mayor, PLEASE stop wasting our time and money with your politics and games. Also should you continue to quote those little church sayings, "I know who I am and I know whose I am", purhaps you should read the passage regarding, hell enlarging it's self every day.

  8. To Anonymous at 5:02...she probably couldn't consult Hellwig...Craigslist is online 365 days a year...Busy busy!

  9. More food for thought....

    I called Plainfield City Hall regarding the 5K/1K walk/run last week with what I thought were some simple questions! What will the sign-up fees be utilized for and who will oversee the expenditures of the monies raised. What I recieved as an answer was BLANK AIR. No one could answer the question! Should we be connecting the dots again?

  10. I hope the people of Plainfield, if they cannot vote for change and vote for Van Pelt, will at least NOT VOTE for Jerry Green. Remember, it is the highest number of votes for the people who get in, not the party.

    So, you don't have to vote Republican, just DON'T vote for Jerry.