Thursday, July 29, 2010

Morey: Lawson Letter 'Hypocritical;' 'Top Prize to BOE For Lack of Transparency'

In his Letter to the Editor last week, David Lawson failed to identify himself as a Member of the Board of Education. How about that for transparency, folks? The facts that he is a Member of the BOE and left that out of his letter is significant, of course, and hypocritical, of course, because in that very letter he complains about the lack of transparency in the Town Government.

I marvel at his audacity. Let’s take a look.

Lawson and his cronies criticize the Mayor and the Town Council because they can’t follow the Council Meetings on the Town’s Web Page. Well, Mr. Lawson, hosting meetings on the Web costs money and the Town does the best it can without burdening the taxpayers and creating a new line item in the Budget. The Town Council Meetings are as transparent as the taxpayers can afford at this time. While Council Meetings are cablecast on the Web every Saturday, the Town only has one IT person, not dozens like the Board of Ed has and the Town doesn’t have a 24/7 TV education channel like the Board of Ed has. Why don’t you bring this topic up at your next Meeting and propose that the BOE help the Town by sharing its resources?

With regard to amending the Town Council agendas, maybe you don’t know that there is a State Statute that allows items to be added to an agenda by a 2/3 vote during a meeting! Think about this, Mr. Lawson. Although she has no obligation to do so, the Mayor actually distributes an up-to-the-last-possible-minute Agenda so that there are no surprises at the meetings. She could, instead, just leave the Agenda as is and add new items at the meeting. Remember, too, that issues change daily and come up almost hourly.

Thank you, Mayor Murphy, for keeping us informed.

Finally, on rare occasion, the Council has to add items to an agenda because of the exigencies of time. You know, don’t you, that the Town Council is responsible for far broader issues than that of the BOE. Having never served on the Council and seemingly disinterested in its function, Mr. Lawson’s position is understandable but not acceptable.

Recently, Mr. Lawson seems to have felt threatened by the appointment of a very qualified person, Beth Falder, to a Town Council ad hoc Committee established to examine efficiencies in both the Town and School Budgets to save tax dollars. Likely, he is upset that Ms. Falder had the temerity to speak at a recent School Budget Meeting and ask some totally reasonable questions. I guess that’s a no-no is his book and in the books of the other tax-and-spend cult members for which Mr. Lawson serves as poster-boy.

Mr. Lawson also compared her abilities to those of two Members of the Board of Finance for this Committee who he thinks would have been better candidates. Sorry. Given the abysmal attendance of some members of the BOF at Budget time, they fail the test to qualify for service on any Committee. Ms. Falder is intelligent, has some good ideas, has a mind of her own and brings a fresh approach to an important arena. We’re not fighting Sempra, here, folks and I want to remind readers that the appointees on the Sewer Commission are responsible for millions of dollars.

Mr. Lawson, before you criticize Town agendas for alleged lack of transparency you need to take a hard look at your Board that serves up managed news with very little substance. In fact, I give the BOE top prize for lack of transparency. As viewers of its Meetings know, most of the Board’s important decisions are made in committees and rubber stamped in Board meetings. The viewing public has no clue what’s happened in the subcommittees. Worse, if any Board Member or member of the public attempts to ask any substantive questions about committee matters or any matter affecting our schools, they’re gaveled out of order in a rude and condescending manner by the Board’s Chair.

Here are some examples of the Board of Ed’s lack of disclosure to the public. How was the extra $600,000 in medical savings spent and how was the $750,000 in Federal stimulus money spent in the last fiscal cycle? Why does the BOE wait until a new budget has passed before it votes on its volumes of budget transfers? Why aren’t the school system purchases done in public view but instead in internally managed and controlled meetings out of the public’s sight leaving several bidders questioning the process?

It is my opinion that the BOE doesn’t want the taxpayers to know the large surplus the Board has at the end of the fiscal year at a time when they are asking them for more Budget money?

The School Budget’s initial defeat should be a signal to you and to your fellow board members that the taxpayers are not pleased and that they are onto the games.

Mr. Lawson, please remember that every penny that you spend is the taxpayers money, not the School Board’s money.

We need serious people with serious ideas to improve government. You don’t qualify.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mayor and Council Make History: BOE Now Required To Comply With Town Bidding Ordinance

Without fanfare, on Monday night the Town Council approved extremely important changes to the Town’s Bidding Ordinance.   They are of historic significance and, as dedicated readers know, have cured one of my pet peeves.

Simply, the BOE is now required to create its own purchasing authority and to bid out its purchases in the same manner as does the Town i.e. it must invite competitive bids.  The changes also affect the Library.

Here’s the revision; the matter in brackets is deleted:

Municipal Purchases

Revision of Chapter 2, Article III (Section 2-92) New Milford Code

Offered by: Mayor Pat Murphy
                                Charter, Section 405
                                New Milford Code, Section 1-4

§2-92. Bids. (a) Purchasing authority defined. Except as set forth in paragraph (l), as used in this section, “purchasing authority” shall mean the Director of Finance and Mayor.

(l) Board of Education and library purchases. This section shall [not] apply to [any] purchases made by the Board of Education [or] and the New Milford Library. Provided, however, the purchasing authority for the Board of Education shall be those persons assigned and designated as such by the Board of Education. The purchasing authority for the New Milford Library shall be those persons assigned and designated as such by the library Board of Trustees when such purchases are to be made with monies from fund sources designated in Chapter 11, §11-3 of the New Milford Code of Ordinances. For all other library purchases requiring the expenditure of funds other than or in addition to monies from such designated sources, the purchasing authority shall be the Director of Finance and the Mayor.