According to the city’s draft budget for fiscal year 2018/19, there is a predicted $77,124 decrease in beach parking, marina, and boat launching activities from fiscal year 2015/16 to 2017/18. There is an actual decrease of $146,472 in the first ten months of fiscal year 2017/18. The predicted 2020 budget shows an overall decrease of $42,124 in beach revenue from 2016. This four-year decrease of income is after all the clamor of increasing tourism due to the costly downtown redevelopment project and last year’s increase in the daily beach parking fee from $10 to $12 that the city employees requested. Should we be asking if there is an actual decrease in revenue generated or is there a decrease in revenue making it to city hall? Park Budget Page
In 2013, the New Buffalo City Clerk was convicted of embezzling $92,000 of beach revenue over a two-year period from fees collected at the beach parking lot and boat launch. After this incident, the city’s insurance provider, the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA) worked with Police Chief Larry Pitchford on developing policies and then funded a security surveillance system that included audio video cameras that were placed in the business offices at city hall to monitor employee activities.
Through an ethics complaint and several lawsuits centered around the surveillance cameras monitoring inappropriate employee activity, the city employees somehow convinced the city council to first disconnect the audio surveillance oversight and then to move all the equipment oversight from the police department to the employees who were supposed to be monitored. It is anyone’s guess if the cameras are active. A change in policy earlier this year that was promoted by the employees who are supposed to be monitored, was adopted by the city council, allowing the employees to destroy video recordings after 30 days. The changes took the city back to pre 2013 conditions.
Recently, City Manager Dave Richards pulled the plug on the audio and video recording of city council meetings. Since January 1, 2018, the residents are being kept in the dark. Special meetings are held the day after they are announced, with employees only providing sketchy details about the reason for these meetings. When there is a requirement for employees to post a public notice, sometimes the announcement is sent to the Detroit Free Press for publication. The city council was manipulated by their employees who successfully gained control of both the information leaving city hall and the monitoring of their own activities.
Why would the beach revenues be dropping after a multi million dollar downtown revision? Instead of being concerned about keeping the meetings short, Mayor O’Donnell and the other council members should spend some time asking the employees some hard questions. Of course, due to City Manager Richards pulling the plug on recording the council meetings, even if the council members asked the questions, we would never hear the answers.
FYI: In Tuesday’s council packet, Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh is requesting $15,000 to contract with a lawn service to provide mowing at the parks. The first question is why is the street supervisor instead of the park supervisor making this request? The second question should be, why doesn’t the city provide a part-time summer job to a city resident instead? I would mow the grass during the summer for $15,000.