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COUNCIL STUMBLES OVER RIVIERA BILL

 

Sometimes, in small-town governmental operations, there are only a few members of the elected and appointed leaders who really get it.  The overages in charges submitted by MSI (the general contractor for the Riviera redevelopment) to the city council on Monday night were met with a bit of irritated shock and no small amount of embarrassment.

The overages were in the hundreds of thousands and MSI was there (on zoom) to get paid.  The revelations of the lengthy debate about the financial bill submissions were confusing, broken, and tattered, here and there. Only two council members seemed to really get it.

Rich Howell and Cindy Flower, two council members the Geneva Shore Report is not used to complimenting, were penetrating, understanding, and visibly upset. Both voted ‘no’ to paying the overages to MSI, although the payments were approved by the remainder of the council.  It turns out that the charges were not pre-approved by the council.  The first the council saw of them was Monday night, for decision-making, that is.  The fact that nobody on the council gave approval for the charges is a violation of every financial principle inherent in a financial fiduciary trust situation.

In effect, MSI got to bill whatever it felt justified in billing and the city was held hostage to pay the money.  What else was the city council to do? The work had been commissioned by the ‘group of owners,’ which is another name for the city administrative management, although that crew could not approve of any financial arrangements or fund them.

City attorney Dan Draper also stood tall in the meeting, demonstrating that although the management of the project was not illegal, it was certainly without common safeguards used to govern such multi-million-dollar projects (as the Riviera certainly was).  Jake, the money guy on zoom who, giving every evidence by the appearance of being some sort of Consiglieri for the contractor, stated his case that the reason the charges had grown so dramatically was that the ‘owners’ had come to MSI in April and indicated that the project had to be completed by May in order to accommodate a very important wedding.

MSI supposedly dropped everything, was unable to spend time getting sub-contractors to bid or purchase supplies competitively, and went ahead at full speed.  It was damn the torpedoes and damn the budget right along with it.  By examining the financials submitted for payment to the city it would give every appearance that the last month’s rush to finish in time for the wedding cost the city at least a quarter of a million dollars.

One can only wonder how much revenue that wedding created.  Through the night meeting that went on and on, thunder and lightning striking everywhere outside the municipal building, only Hedland, Flower, and city attorney Draper, continued to be the analytical equivalent of tenured college professors, as they took each part of the almost four-hundred-page council packet apart and found fault.

Not that their effort did anything but make some of the many people in the audience feel better. Like clockwork, the other members of the council present ‘ticked’ the time away by voting for every bit of the remainder of the agenda items that made their appearance.  Small town politics remains small-town politics, just as all politics is local…right down to the smallest city council items to be voted upon.

 

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