Leader Blues

Saturday, December 22, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Late with FOIs

To the editor:

All I want for Christmas is what I asked for…

Government entities and their employees who are entrusted with the care, management, and disposition of properties on behalf of others and who are accountable for such activities act in a fiduciary capacity.

This fiduciary capacity places a great responsibility on those who spend tax revenues and on their reporting responsibility to citizens. Part of this capacity is to comply with federal regulations, specifically the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for supplying information to citizens who request it.

The FOIA regulations require a response within 72 hours if the documents are available and there are penalties imposed for negligence. A $200 fine and 30 days in jail, or both.

I requested monthly financial statements from Cabot’s “custodian of the records” for each of the following months.
July financial statements were received Aug. 14.

August financial statements were received Oct. 8. September financial statements were received Nov. 13.

October financial statements have not been received as of Dec. 15 and no indication of when to expect them. November financial statements “should be available Jan. 8, 2008.” Do we see a trend here?

As I have stated several times in emails to the “custodian of the records” and other city officials, the city has gone back to the cash basis of accounting.

So closing out each month is as simple as reconciling the bank account at the end of the month and then printing the financial statements. The whole process should not take more than two days. Been there, done that. So at the very least, cash-basis statements should be ready by the 10th of each month.

I think most well-run businesses have their statements published by the 10th.

The law protects officials to the point of being ridiculous. Legally, you have three choices:

Malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance.

Malfeasance is doing that which should not have been done, misfeasance is improper performance of a lawful act and nonfeasance is failure to do what should be done.

I was told in one email from the “custodian of the records” that to expect a month’s financial statements by the 10th of the following month was “not only difficult, but impossible.”

So where does all this fit…..doing that which should not have been done, the improper performance of a legal act, a failure to do what should be done, or a combination of all three?

Dale Walker
Cabot

Dale Walker is Cabot’s former finance director.