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