Being careful not to overstate it; sometimes instead of pointing out the opposition to, or problems with the things that the city is considering, is doing or has done, it is important to point out that the vast majority of what the city officials and city employees do are necessary and done for the great benefit of everyone. Those benefits include running an eight to ten million dollar city budget, granting approvals, issuing permits, establishing procedures, regulations and ordinances, overseeing the repair and maintenance of roads, parks, city buildings and facilities, inspecting and supplying public services that include police, fire, EMS, sewer and water, snow plowing, street cleaning, brush pickup, supervising the planning and scheduling of projects, hiring companies to do the projects (from major projects to garbage pickup and recycling).
Whew! People going down to city hall are like those going to the doctor. People go there when they have a problem and want the city to do something to make it better for them, but like with going to the doctor, sometimes they can take care of the problem, but sometimes they can only direct you to someone else. Sometimes they can tell you what you need to do to solve it yourself, but other times they can only tell you the reality of the situation. But regardless of what they can or cannot do for you, those at city hall are polite and friendly. That being said, it’s not 98% to 99% that the city does right but the 1% or 2% that the city does wrong that is the much-discussed concern.
The more people that an issue affects, or the more severely that issue adversely affects some individuals, then the more certain the council members need to be that the decision that they make is the right choice. Like the members of a jury, every decision the members of the city council make affects people’s lives. City government is all about that effect, and how it is used to organize, control and obtain the compliance of people, the spending of the money that the city collects, and who benefits from that spending. The difference between a good government and a bad one is determined by who benefits from the government and the degree of freedom that individuals have within that government, which also lies within one’s personal compliance to the laws, along with the government’s compliance to those laws and the government’s enforcement of those laws. No matter how good a government is, it can always be better, which is what the Geneva Shore Report strives to help with.
The Linn Town Board Meeting was certainly unconventional Monday night.
It started as a tribunal to answer a letter from Senator Nass and Representative August asking the Town to respond to the scandalmongering campaign underway by a small group of concerned residents and the local Lake Geneva Regional News. The hullabaloo concerned confusion over negative statements in the Town’s yearly audit made by CPA Pat Romenesko. The acting Town Attorney started the hearings by projecting Wisconsin State Statutes on a large screen detailing audit requirements for Towns in Wisconsin. He explained that an audit is mandatory in a town only when the Town Clerk and Town Treasurer positions are combined, which has been the case for many years in Linn Township –until the two positions get separated after next month’s elections and then an Audit will not be required. Mr. Romenesko then came before the tribunal and was asked by Chairman Weiss to explain to everyone the purpose, procedure, and what to expect from an audit.
After a 10 to 15 minute course on the rules and procedures of how to conduct an audit, it turns out an audit is simply an “expression of the opinion on the fairness of the financial statements presented and reviewed by the CPA Auditor.” To protect himself from any legal liability, he and most other auditors add the 3 caveats, or boilerplate, that the financial statements are imperfect because the Town:
1. “Lacks Segregation of duties” because the Clerk and Treasurer are combined.
2. “Lacks airtight system of controls” because there’s not a second staff official to authorize the reports.
3. “Financial Statements are not picture perfect and require some adjustment by the Auditor.”
The floor was then opened up for the opposition to ask questions and voice their complaints. That amounted to the accusation that Mr. Romenesko was an employee of the Town and couldn’t give a fair opinion. Romenesko said he helped the Town on request to assist in preparing the Town Budget, but he was an independent contractor, not an employee, and had no management role in the Town. The result of all the grousing by those few Linn residents: very experienced Clerk/ Treasurer is forced to retire; the job gets split up so there will be no state requirement for an audit.