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Alderman Patrick Toohey: Brentwood Needs Financial Controls, Less Anger in Meetings, Whistleblower Hotline

Toohey said good controls would promote trust in the city.

Brentwood Ward 4 Councilman Patrick Toohey last week contacted Maplewood-Brentwood Patch with a request to talk about how Brentwood could be better run.

Toohey is an accountant, and said the state audit of the city (to be made public early this year), is a good opportunity to improve the city’s processes.

At Ray’s Donuts, on Feb. 16, Toohey talked about financial controls, city government hierarchy, productive board meetings and a city whistle blower hot line.

He said internal controls have never been a big part of city audits.

“This could be a chance for Brentwood to lead the way," Toohey said.

He said administrative sign-off for credit card reconciliations is an example of a control.

“Someone like Gina (Jarvis, CPA, Brentwood Finance Director) should be signing off on all the receipts. It’s her way of saying, ‘I’ve gone through this. I take responsibility for it.’”

He said good controls would promote trust.

“Unfortunately a lot of people don’t trust the city,” he said.” No matter what you tell them they don’t believe us. That alleviates that problem.”

He said implementing controls isn’t urgent, but the sooner the better. He also said it takes time and money.

“Would you go to an outside accounting firm to set it up? Do we want Gina to do this? Gina has the skill sets,” he said. But he also said he doesn't know if she has the time.

Toohey also talked about the city government hierarchy.

“Everything can flow through Bola (Akande), the administrator,” he said. “Having her be over every department, and the Board of Aldermen over Bola.”

But the finance department would be outside of Akande, he said.

“The Board of Aldermen will approve the budget, and Bola would be allowed to spend as she sees fit, but in the end she wouldn’t send out the checks,” he said. “She’d have to have all checks go through the finance position, so we would be recording every cash in and out, and her financial performance would be reported to the board directly.”

Toohey compared Brentwood to a bus headed for a cliff. “Do you turn it around, or do you blame the person who got you headed toward the cliff?”

“People let their anger take over,” he said. “Instead of focusing on how to make the best processes, they’re focusing on who to blame. That creates a negative environment at meetings, and then you push good, talented people away from wanting to get involved. I understand the anger, but that doesn’t get us anywhere."

He also said a resident once suggested a whistle blower hot line, and he likes the idea.

“If someone sees something, they need a way to voice this,” he said. “We’re so small and there’s so many relationships. You see something you don’t think is kosher, and you’re scared to say something.”

He said the hot line would go to a third party, which would report to the Board of Aldermen.

“We need to know,” Toohey said. “The best thing we can have as aldermen is information.”

Read related article in Patch:

  • Residents Seek State Audit of Brentwood's Finances
  • Brentwood Audit Results Expected Early 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Toohey February 21, 2013 at 05:11 AM
Tim, I never said anger doesn't have a purpose. Anger can serve as a wonderful motivator but it can also impair judgment. Anger must be kept with in reason so that sound decisions are made. I would urge you to reread my comments.
Jim Pozzo February 23, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Ryan, Doug, any information on whether it was legal or appropriate for an alderman to talk to the Patch to discuss "possible" recommendations from the closed meetings with the State Auditor's Office? It is just up to the alderman? Jim Pozzo
Doug Miner February 23, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Jim - I'll run this by a few folks on Monday and see what they say. Thanks
Tom Johnson February 24, 2013 at 07:06 AM
This is exactly what is tearing this city apart. People like Mr. Pozzo who wan't to make a big deal about Alderman Toohey talking with Patch. You all say you are trying to move us forward with accountability, well why don't you all just quit bickering about every little thing, and quit trying to attack the littlest things. I hope you all get what you want, which is for Alderman Saunders to become mayor and then have all of her "people" become aldermen. At this point, I would like to have that happen so the tables can be turned. You all try and run the city when every move you make is being second guessed at every second. See how easy it is for you.
Jim Pozzo February 25, 2013 at 04:08 AM
Mr. Johnson, I thought it was a simple question that would be easy to answer.

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