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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mike White
Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey responded to a statement by City Treasurer Mike White Wednesday evening by calling his job performance "terrible."

White had taken to the floor the Common Council meeting to defend his office against things said during a Common Council meeting two weeks prior, including that city officials "lost" $700,000 the city had borrowed for capital projects.

White said his office was understaffed at the time and the report presented Sept. 2 by Director of Finance Scott Schrader made his office out to "look like a bunch of fools" without stating all the facts of the situation.

But McCaffrey didn't allow White to have the last word. She said White "failed to acknowledge" the city's financial situation and has not been part of the solution to the city's financial stress.

Her statement follows in its entirety:
As Mayor of the City, I feel compelled to respond to the City Treasurer’s comments this evening.

Running a $30 million dollar municipal corporation is serious business.

It requires accurate oversight and reportings from our Chief Financial Officer. The facts are clear and indisputable from the NYS State Comptroller’s office and the recent audit from our new accounting firm.

The City has had poor accounting and reporting from the City Treasurer’s office.  

Let’s talk factually for a moment about the City Treasurer’s job performance:
We can count on one hand the number of times the Treasurer has come to the Council meetings over the past 10 years. When I became Mayor, I asked the City Treasurer to start coming. He stated that he preferred to watch the meetings on TV at home. He finally came to a few reluctantly, but could never answer any questions about accurate revenues, balance sheets and financing. Now – all of the sudden - he’s coming and speaking up quite loudly about the proposed restructuring of our City Treasurer’s office and its duties and responsibilities and attacking the proposed salary which is adequate for the Treasurer’s responsibilities.

I must say it is finally nice to see the City Treasurer coming to the Common Council after a 10 year hiatus, but I wish he used these rare appearances to provide the Common Council with the accurate financial statements we have requested time and time again.

Now, the City Treasurer is going to continue to say he needed more staff, like all department heads do.  Unfortunately, the buck stops at desk of the department head and the responsibility to get the departmental work done falls on their shoulders.

When the city’s accounting was spiraling out of control, the Treasurer should have jumped in and performed the work himself if that was necessary to correct it. Crisis demands commitment and stepping up when duty calls.

Regardless, the City Treasurer was responsible for the accurate financial reports that his office was obligated to produce. So, here are the facts of the City Treasurer’s job performance:
  • As per the NYS Comptroller’s Office- Accounting records were so poor that it kept city officials from making good, budgetary decisions – since City officials did not have the proper information to make conclusions.
  • It took Lumsden and McCormick, an outside professional budgetary financial firm, to expose that we had a negative fund balance and were operating at a deficit as the Treasurer never informed the taxpayers or the Common Council.
  • It has now taken an outside consultant to clean up and reconcile capital accounts.  Since this consultant’s work began, serious accounting errors have been discovered with the capital accounts.
  • There was a time not so long ago when the city’s expenditures exceeded annual revenue.  The Treasurer should have sounded the alarm publicly alerting the council and the community that this was coming. Had cash flow reports been done with monthly reconciliations and careful financial analysis – the City would have know this information before it was too late.
  • The city had the same CPA firm for 17 years and as the Comptroller stated this firm’s work was clearly deficient. I never recall the Treasurer recommending that going out to bid for auditing services. I never recall the Treasurer pointing out deficiencies in the city auditor’s report. Why? Because they were rubber stamping his inaccurate reports. As Common Council President, I demanded a RFP be issued for auditing services and that a change in auditing services occur.  I am so glad that I did – but I often question why didn’t our City Treasurer ask for a RFP. I guess we now know why.  
Since becoming Mayor in February, 2014, I acknowledge that the buck for all city matters stop at my desk. That’s why I have worked tirelessly with the Common Council, professional accounting firms, the State Comptroller’s office, and department heads to reverse the financial crisis facing City of Lockport taxpayers. I have fought hard to reverse a budget that was significantly in the RED to one now which is in the BLACK.

We have all rolled up our sleeves and have made difficult decisions – many of which – were painful. We have implemented real financial accounting reforms and accountability standards. We have supported a restructuring of the City Treasurer’s department, which we hope will be ratified by City residents this fall, to ensure a fresh, professional approach to the complexities of municipal finance today.

Unfortunately since becoming Mayor, the one person who failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation by pointing fingers instead of using them to balance our ledgers, who has failed to take any responsibility for the horrendous financial accounting statements, as cited by outside professionals, which fell under his department’s jurisdiction, and who failed be an active participant in trying to correct matters City Treasurer Mike White.

I firmly believe that we all make choices and we choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem. Since becoming Mayor, I have had no choice but to be actively part of solving the problem. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Treasurer.

I am unable to sit back any longer and let this charade go on. It’s time for me to state the plain truth. The Treasurer’s job performance managing the city’s finances has been terrible and this conclusion is not based on myth and fiction, but on factual and independent analysis from several outside professionals.

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