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Monday, October 19, 2015

Former City of Lockport Treasurer Jim Ashcraft, in a letter to East Niagara Post, urges Lockport voters to shoot down a proposal that would reduce the duties of the city's treasurer.

The letter, posted below in its entirety, supports the position of both incumbent Treasurer Mike White and his opponent in the upcoming November election, Sue Mawhiney. Both candidates stated during a recent East Niagara Radio interview that they felt the duties of the treasurer should remain the same.

Ashcraft criticizes the creation of the director of finance position, stating that it is "answerable only to the individual elected as Mayor, where as the Treasurer is independent and is only answerable to the citizens."

Again, that mirrors the position of both candidates for the office.

"With the right person in that position, they can do everything that needs to be done," Mawhiney said. "That treasurer is accountable to the people. If they don't have that position, who's going to be accountable to the people? I just believe the referendum should be voted no."

"As far as the referendum to put the powers of the purse, if you will, in the hands of the executive branch of government, I think it's a terrible idea to do that," White said. "To me it's never been more apparent than recently how important the independent voice of the treasurer is, regardless of who sits in that chair."

Ashcraft served as city treasurer for 25 years and was highly regarded both inside and outside city hall. His letter follows:
Reducing the duties of the Lockport City Treasurer is an ill-conceived and bad idea.

A proposition on this year’s ballot for City of Lockport voters is to amend the City Charter reducing the duties of the elected office of City Treasurer. Should this happen it would place many of the critical financial duties on a newly created City Finance Director. This new position is answerable only to the individual elected as Mayor, where as the Treasurer is independent and is only answerable to the citizens.

In my 25 year tenure as City Treasurer, I was fortunate to have a full staff of personnel to help carry out the many duties my office.

In the past several years, actions of the administrative & legislative bodies (Mayors & Common Councils) failed to adequately staff critical personnel positions in the accounting and tax collection offices thus, jeopardizing the timely and accurate financial information to the extent that the city faced a financial crisis.

Some say that the responsibility of the City’s financial operations rest with the elected City Treasurer, this is true; however, as in a football game “if you do not have a complete backfield” you will have difficulty reaching your goal.

Reducing the duties of the Treasurer as specified in the City Charter is a dangerous concept not only today but in future City administrations.

I implore the voters to reject the proposition to limit the duties of the Treasurer, whoever is elected the position.

-- James W. Ashcraft Jr.  
-- Lockport City Treasurer (Retired)

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