Too Few, Too Many, or….Just Right?

4/29/2017

As an update to our 17 April 2017 article:

Once again, the City has claimed that our requests are “voluminous.” A reminder; the FOIA statute was ammended in 2009 to limit individuals whom City’s contended that the Freedom of Information Act placed an unfair burden on the.  The State modified FOIA to allow City’s to restrict individuals, but not those involved in providing access to the community through the media. This allowed City’s to place some limitations on individuals, but not on media, academics and researchers.  Since all information requested and received by openNAUVOO is placed here, with appropriate analysis, and is used in the process of investigating the actions of Nauvoo City Government we fall under the media distinction.  Hundreds of individuals agree, having viewed our articles over 4,000 times in just over a month.

Our most popular pages are those which feature our analysis.  The documents we receive through FOIA ensure that we are accurate in our reporting.  Otherwise, the Citizens of Nauvoo are left to conjecture, and rumor.  In spite of having been provided the Attorney General’s previous opinion on websites as media, the City provided the following letter (undated, but received by us on 27 April 2015):

This after supplying the City with a copy of the Attorney General opinion on the subject.  An additional request for review has been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office.

It remains unclear what is causing the City of Nauvoo so much concern.  The requests being denied include copies of Invoices (related to the Tourism Office, Outlaw Tee’s and Water Department vendor; Rhino Industries), items related to our Statement of Economic Interest inquiry, copies of Nauvoo’s Municipal Code to assist us in another investigation under way, and provide easier access to Citizens to refer to ordinances that affect them. The City was provided with a letter informing them of the Request for Review submitted to the Attorney General.

On a related issue, the order supplied to the City on 11 April 2017 has still not been complied with.  The City’s Attorney telephoned the Assistant Attorney General who sent the demand, stating that they never received the letter in the mail, but had heard rumors of its existence.  It was then sent by email (which will be the method used in the future by the Attorney General to ensure no mail mishaps). More delays.  They have seven working days to comply, so next week should be very informative.

Additional requests are being supplied to the Attorney General’s Office on Monday morning.  We will update then.

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Nauvoo City Proposed Budget First Look

When reviewing the City’s proposed 2018 budget, getting a broad overview of expenses can be helpful.  While we will focus in future articles on Interfund Transfers, Community Building and Recreation Improvements, we’ll start with a look at recurring expenses and how they are distributed.

As we presented in an earlier article related to previous budgets, a large segment of Nauvoo City’s recurring expenses relate to personnel costs.  This continues with the proposed budget for 2018.

In spite of previous statements by the Mayor, this is not aimed at any specific segment of City Government (ie snow removal).  Those in public works provide excellent services to the the citizens of Nauvoo. But with 39% of the recurring expenses being related to personnel costs, a review is appropriate.  These costs include: city employee salaries, taxes, insurance, pensions, alderman meeting fees, public committee payments for meeting attendance, interns, etc.

It is difficult to break detailed costs down by department, since the city reports direct employee salary as a group, but additional costs (taxes, insurance, pension, etc.) are reported by department in public filings.  Upcoming reports will bring this level of detail to openNAUVOO.

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Statements of Economic Interest, and Potential Conflicts of Interest in Nauvoo City Government

While it is not the sole purpose of openNAUVOO to investigate issues, there are times where providing transparency results in a need to also encourage accountability. In the process of researching the expenses of the City of Nauvoo, there have been transactions that lead to questions.  In addition, the issue of requesting bids from potential vendors and getting the best possible price from those doing business with the City has become a question.

Requests to the City for the documents associated with the bid process have gone unanswered, and statements have been made that there were no bids, and thus no contracts associated with them.  All of this leads to the question; How is the City ensuring it’s getting the best value for citizens? Are the citizens receiving the best value at a time when finances seem to be so challenging in Nauvoo? These questions require a detailed look at all transactions within the City of Nauvoo.

Among the questionable transactions were purchases from companies owned or managed by City Officials, since these transactions can be a conflict of interest. There is a process defined by State law, and managed by the County, that is intended to limit the effect these dealings can have.  A “Statement of Economic Interest” is required from each public official, and must be updated each year.  These documents are available for review by the public.  Those filed with the Illinois Secretary of State can be reviewed online, but those filed with Hancock County must be individually requested, and the individual whose form is reviewed is notified of who requested to view the form (including their name, address, phone number, purpose, and occupation?).  These forms have already been requested and received for many City Officials, and the process is underway to receive all of them.  This was initially limited to five years, but the issues raised will expand that further.

As a case in point:  Mayor John McCarty has filed Statements of Economic Interest with the Hancock County Clerk as required by law.  In each of these forms, he has stated that he has no ownership in any entity that does business with the City of Nauvoo, and as a result discloses no specifics about any transactions that occurred in the year prior to the form submission.

The system maintained by the State of Illinois for business registration, shows that John McCarty is both the Agent, as well as the President of Outlaw Tee’s, Inc.

 

A review of the City of Nauvoo expense reports received as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, shows that in each of the reviewed years, Outlaw Tee’s has received payment from the City of Nauvoo on invoices submitted by Outlaw Tee’s. (Copies of these invoices have been requested via FOIA request, but have not been received as of 24 April 2017).

Invoices:

  • 11/12/2013    $35.00
  • 6/10/2014    $270.20
  • 7/30/2014    $449.20
  • 8/12/2014    $32.60
  • 1/30/2015    $1100.00
  • 2/27/2015    $3050.00
  • 4/30/2015    $470.00
  • 8/31/2015    $215.20
  • 9/30/2015    $765.00
  • 6/14/2016    $199.40
  • 10/11/2016    $65.00
  • 12/30/2016    $1645.49

The City’s official Public Notice, places the figure for FY 2015 at $9,798.  Clearly not all transactions are included in the expense report we received through our FOIA request.

We do not have details on many transactions made through the City’s Hotel Motel Tax Board, since there are at least two accounts used by the board. One which utilizes the City Treasurer (the Tourism Director’s payroll, travel expenses, rent, utilities, etc.) and another which receives funds from individuals, and is used for other expenses not reflected in the City’s check register. (See “Who May Receive Funds for the City?“) Perhaps this helps to account for some of the disagreement. Details of these accounts have been requested, but have not been received to date.

So, even though the Statement of Economic Interest form filed by the Mayor does not disclose it, his business, Outlaw Tee’s does do business with the City.  Once all financial documents are reviewed, the level may grow.

What are the penalties for failing to complete this form accurately?  The Statement of Economic Interest form specifies that the penalty “shall be a fine not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment in a penal institution other than the penitentiary not to exceed one year, or both fine and imprisonment.”  There are at least six instances of this form not being filed correctly, additional review is needed to determine any additional incorrect statements.

Why does this statement matter?

As stated here on this site, this statement “alerts public officials to their own financial interests and potential areas of conflict.”  Further, “Public officials who have a conflict of interest in a decision must disqualify themselves from making that decision or face civil and criminal penalties.”  Secondly, “Disclosure…enables the public to judge whether there was a risk of governmental decisions” being “affected by a public official’s financial self-interest or that of supporters or friends.”  Since the Mayor does not vote in City Council meetings, it is likely there will be the claim that he did not “make” any decisions relating to his business.  That does not relieve his responsibility to eliminate even the potential for conflict of interest from those he associates with in City government and to complete statements filed with the County accurately and truthfully.

If this were the extent of the issue, there would simply be consequences determined by a judge, and a commitment to complete the forms more truthfully in the future.  But the Statement of Economic Interest leads to areas where City Officials may receive benefit from services provided on their behalf by other public bodies, or the use of public funds to enhance their business dealings.  This has required a broader look at what services the City provides to promote, service or support all activities where public officials receive benefit. This has resulted in several additional requests for information to the City of Nauvoo. We recently received a request to visit with investigators with the Illinois State Police, which we did today.

There is more to come.

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Nauvoo City’s Illegal Accumulation of Funds?

26 April 2017

It has seemed strange that the City of Nauvoo maintains such a high balance in an account at the State Bank of Nauvoo (over 1 million dollars).  This at a time when new taxes are being instituted, and fees increased to citizens.  Research into Illinois State law has led to the conclusion that not only is it strange, it may also be illegal. The document cited below is a Supreme Court opinion that clearly identifies the process for determining what is an “Illegal Accumulation of Funds.”

Using the method prescribed by the Supreme Court, the fund balances of Nauvoo were reviewed.  In many cases, fund balances were within a reasonable range.  But in several, they were not.  A stand-out is the Water/Sewer Fund, with a beginning balance of $1.1 Million Dollars, receipts of $597 thousand dollars, and expenses of $527 thousand dollars.  The balance in this account is growing, and has over 3.3 years of funds available.  This is in excess of the amounts deemed by the Supreme Court to be acceptable, is considered excessive, and constitutes a potential “Illegal Accumulation of Funds.”

Note the comment in the Supreme Court’s opinion, “It has long been the fixed policy in this State not to permit the unnecessary accumulation of monies in the public treasury.”  There have been numerous public statements by City Officials concerning the status of a State budget, and this is used to justify many of the financial policies of the City.  However, the opinion further states that “loss of State assistance is not a valid reason for continuing to make levies which result in abnormal accumulation of surplus funds.”

Citizens feel that the water rates in Nauvoo are too high.  Why this $1.1 Million Dollars should sit in the State Bank and earn little or no interest is unknown.  When the citizens are paying over $32 thousand dollars interest annually on a loan with the State EPA.  Paying off this note would save citizens over $32 thousand dollars a year (and perhaps eliminate the need for the new taxes already implemented, and those planned to increase this year by the City Council).

For some of these funds, the answer would seem to be to reduce the burden on the citizens by reducing rates, or taxes.  In other cases, it could be suggested that the funds be put to better use (transfer to roads to make needed repairs, etc.)  The courts have ruled in favor of citizens in the past, they may be required to do so again for the Citizens of Nauvoo.

Fund Analysis for Fiscal Year 2015:

Fund (FY2015)
Beginning Balance
Receipts
Expense
Total
 Years 
General
Fund
$620,634
$802,391
$879,391
$1,423,025
1.6
Audit
Fund
$16
$11,531
$11,500
$11,547
1.0
Tort
Fund
$262
$51,121
$43,053
$51,383
1.2
Motor
Fuel Tax Fund
$39,662
$28,464
$37,579
$68,126
1.8
Street Lighting Fund
$12,976
$6,949
$7,628
$19,925
2.6
Social Security Fund
$12,662
$24,816
$23,994
$37,478
1.6
Streets & Bridges
Fund
$33,818
$90,725
$89,540
$124,543
1.4
Police
Fund
$13,901
$188,501
$194,989
$202,402
1.0
Hotel
Motel
Fund
$19,598
$12,116
$113,822
$31,714
0.28
Library
Fund
$71,457
$56,441
$52,358
$127,898
2.4
Special
Tax
Fund
$46,472
$58,748
$45,864
$105,220
2.3
Water
Sewer  Fund
$1,154,193
$597,564
$527,318
$1,751,757
3.3
Cemetery Fund
$46,589
$483
$826
$47,072
56.9

 

The Supreme Court Decision:

42 Ill.2d 542 (1969)
248 N.E.2d 89

CENTRAL ILLINOIS PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY, Appellant,
v.
LOIS E. MILLER, County Treasurer, Appellee.

No. 41683.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
Opinion filed May 28, 1969.
INGHRAM & DITTMEYER, of Quincy, and NAFZIGER & OTTEN of Springfield, (JOHN T. INGHRAM and ELMER NAFZIGER, of counsel) for appellant.

543*543 DONALD G. ADAMS, State’s Attorney, and DELBERT LOOS, both of Quincy, for appellee.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part and remanded.

Mr. JUSTICE KLINGBIEL delivered the opinion of the court:

Central Illinois Public Service Co. pursues two tax objections on this appeal from adverse rulings by the circuit court of Adams County. One is for $36,518.94 in taxes extended against its personal property by the town of Quincy for general assistance purposes for 1966 and the other is for $7,818.76 extended against its personal property for payment of annual principal and interest on swimming pool bonds of Quincy Park District. Both amounts were included in a total of $106,844.06 of taxes paid under protest.

The objection to the levy for general assistance is based on the contention that the amount on hand in the general assistance fund, together with the funds due from the previous year’s levy, made a levy for 1966 unnecessary and resulted in an illegal accumulation of monies.

The facts are stipulated. The balance on hand at the beginning of the fiscal year was $173,649.85 and taxes extended for the prior year (1965) amounted to $131,797.33, making total assets of the fund $305,477.18. Actual expenditures from the fund for the three previous fiscal years were $109,561.63, $118,380.65 and $94,163.46, respectively, or an average of $107,368.60 per year. Thus, the amount available was 2.84 times the 3-year annual average spent and 3.24 times the amount expended in the last previous fiscal year.

It has long been the fixed policy in this State not to permit the unnecessary accumulation of monies in the public treasury. And while the taxing authorities have reasonable discretion in fixing the amount necessary to be raised, the courts will interfere to prevent a clear abuse of their discretionary powers. People ex rel. Schaefer v. New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad Co., 353 Ill. 518; People ex rel. 544*544 Nash v. Westminster Building Corp., 361 Ill. 153; People ex rel. Leaf v. Roth,389 Ill. 287.

A review of the cases in this area makes it apparent that this levy was not justified. In People ex rel. Bracher v. Millard, 307 Ill. 556, it was held that where there were sufficient funds to pay interest on road bonds for 2 years with a balance over, the levy was void. In the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad Co. case the levy was declared illegal where the cash on hand and in process of collection was 3 times the average yearly expense for improvements. In Roth (cited with approval in People ex rel. Harding v. Chicago and North Western Railway Co., 413 Ill. 93) this court voided a levy where the district had assets available, not including any part of the questioned levy, in almost twice the estimated expenditures.

There is nothing in the record to indicate any unusual anticipated call upon the fund or that the levy was for any purpose other than the accumulation of monies in the fund. The argument is made in the town’s brief that it has no control over the number of people who will need aid in a given year. This argument is not impressive when the expenditures for the past three years have varied only slightly over $15,000 between the high and low for the period, and the cash balance has steadily increased each year, the balances being $150,132.99, $161,693.45 and $173,649.85, respectively. From the brief it is apparent that the real reason for continuing to accumulate further surpluses is the belief that if no levy is made the town would not be eligible for a State supplement in case of some unusual demand for assistance. While loss of State assistance is not a valid reason for continuing to make levies which result in abnormal accumulation of surplus funds, there is a ready answer. Section 4-29 of article IV of the Public Assistance Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, ch. 23, par. 429) makes provision for allocation of State funds where there is no levy made because 545*545 of the unobligated balance of funds on hand. Section 3.04 of article IV of the Township Organization Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, ch. 139, par. 39.04) shows a legislative intent that surpluses not be created by inclusion of a proviso which reads that the tax “shall in no case exceed the amount needed in such township for such general assistance.” We are of the opinion that this levy was an abuse of discretion, that the objection should have been sustained and the sum of $36,518.94 paid under protest should have been refunded to the taxpayer.

The park district included in its 1966 annual tax levy ordinance an item for interest on and retirement of swimming pool general obligation bonds and taxes were extended under that ordinance. The taxpayer’s objection is that the levy was void because there was no provision made at or before issuing the bonds for a levy of taxes sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds and that there was no bond ordinance on file in the office of the county clerk at the time of the extension.

The board of commissioners of the park district adopted a resolution calling an election to submit the proposition to issue $125,000 in bonds for construction of a swimming pool and rehabilitation of other facilities. Apparently through mistake, a certified copy of the resolution was filed in the office of the county clerk rather than bond ordinance No. 108. That ordinance provided for the issuance of $125,000 in bonds of $5,000 denomination, dated May 15, 1964, bearing interest at 2.6 per cent per annum, payable semi-annually and maturing in numerical order, $25,000 on May 15, 1965, and a like amount on May 15 the following 4 years, although it did not contain an actual levy.

Section 12 of article IX of the constitution provides that before incurring indebtedness a municipal coporation shall “before or at the time of doing so” provide for the collection 546*546 of a direct annual tax to pay the debt and interest as it falls due. This provision is self executing. (People ex rel. Hicks v. New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad Co., 323 Ill. 493; People ex rel. Brenza v. Anderson, 411 Ill. 252.) Section 6-6 of article 6 of the Park District Code, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, ch. 105, par. 6-6) states that a certified copy of an ordinance providing for the levy shall be filed with the county clerk, while section 172 of the Revenue Act, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, ch. 120, par. 653) provides that the clerk shall make his extensions before the 31st of December.

People ex rel. McDonough v. Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Co.,354 Ill. 630, 639, held a levy to be invalid if the ordinance is not filed before the law required the tax books to be completed and in the hands of the county collector. In this case the bond ordinance was not filed at the time of issuance of the bonds. In fact, it was not filed until January 7, 1967, after the time for the books to be closed. However, these alleged infirmities are not fatal here because it has been held that a levy may be made later in an annual tax levy ordinance for the current year’s debt and interest. (People ex rel. Biebinger v. Peoria and Eastern Railway Co., 216 Ill. 221, 228; St. Louis, Alton and Terre Haute Railroad Co. v. People ex rel. Wolf, 225 Ill. 418, 422; People ex rel. Peer v. Louisville and Nashville Railroad Co., 300 Ill. 312.) Ordinance No. 127 (the 1966 annual tax levy ordinance) included a levy for the payment of the third installment of principal due May 15, 1967, and current interest on the swimming pool bonds, which ordinance was in proper form and filed within the time prescribed by statute. Consequently, this objection has no merit.

The judgment of the circuit court of Adams County is affirmed as to the park district levy and it is reversed as to the Town’s public assistance levy and the cause is remanded with directions to enter an order for the county treasurer and ex-officio collector of taxes to return to Central Illinois Public Service Company, $36,518.94 extended against it for 547*547 assistance purposes of the town of Quincy, to be refunded out of $106,844.06 taxes for 1966 which were paid under protest by the taxpayer.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part and remanded, with directions.

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Today’s City Hotel Motel Board Meeting

25 April 2017

Today was the rescheduled date for the April meeting of the Nauvoo Hotel Motel Tax Governing Board, combined with the Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee.   The audio recording of the meeting is available here.  What follows is some analysis of the meeting.

During the course of the Meeting, an individual attending the meeting made a statement that the meeting was being recorded (by Open Nauvoo), and that we should have made notification of that fact to those in attendance.  Per the statute (5 ILCS 120/2.05), this is not the case.  In fact the Hotel Motel Board should have been recording the meeting themselves (5 ILCS 120/2.06).  After the meeting, this same individual made the comment, when I reviewed the statute with him, that “it would be a courtesy.” This could be true, but misses one key point; those conducting the meeting were doing so as representatives of the Citizens of Nauvoo (at least those on the Hotel Motel Tax Governing Board were there for that purpose), not the businesses they own, or that employ them.   That fact was not clear in the conduct of the meeting. Every Citizen has a right to hear the proceedings of that meeting, whether they are stuck at work, out of town, or just busy. (This includes all city meetings as the statute states, Hotel Board, Economic Development Committee, Finance Committee, etc.)

First off, it’s interesting that the meeting was conducted, not by the President of the City body, the Hotel Motel Tax Board, but by the President of the private Chamber of Commerce.  Throughout the meeting there were constant reminders of who could make a motion for what, and who could second what, since only those on the Hotel Motel Tax Board could vote on those issues relating to the Hotel Motel area, and vice versa.  Unwieldy in theory, confusing in practice.

The Tourism Director attended the meeting as a member of the Chamber of Commerce (at least according to minutes), but reports she gave, and items she raised had to be approved by the Hotel Motel Board. While input from those in either group officially attending the meeting could speak at any time, members of the community had a separate agenda item. In practice, those in the audience who wished to participate were usually allowed to do so, but considering the mixed positions of those at the table, a distinction between official business and public comment was difficult to maintain.

This meeting did provide some insight into an issue that has been difficult to understand; the concern over the Tourism Director contract.  While this contract is paid with public funds (as are all the expenses associated with the employment: office, utilities, rent, etc.) the vote to approve the contract proceeded with a vote to approve by the members of the Hotel Motel Tax Governing Board. Not a recommendation that the City Council approve the expense, but an authorization for the President of the Hotel Motel Tax Governing Board to sign the agreement (This in spite of the fact that the City will be writing a check every two weeks as required by the contract).  More research into the workings of this arrangement will be forthcoming. There are efforts underway at this time to obtain from the City an explanation as to how this body is conducting City business, and to explain how they expend public funds in the way they do.

When taken in light of the upcoming approval of a new Tourism Director contract, efforts to deny access to the previous contract to the Citizens of Nauvoo, take an enlightening turn.  Now, not only are Citizens unaware of the contract (and whether its performance criteria have been met, since that was not a part of the discussion in today’s meeting, other than the platitude “She’s doing a great job, and works hard, even if she’s made some mistakes”) but they have no ability to provide input in how a new agreement should be fashioned going forward. There was an ambiguous “we’ll look at what modifications need to be implemented in the next year.” If modifications are warranted, why not make them now? It’s been five years since the initial contract was awarded, should there at least be consideration of receiving bids for a new contract, just to be sure Nauvoo is receiving the best price and experience on this contract?

It may be that the Citizens are getting exactly what the Board has asked of her, but who knows.  And if so, is that what the Citizens would require (if they were asked) in exchange for over 80% of the hotel motel tax money that stays with the Board (after the City puts 50% of a portion of the taxes back into the general fund)*?  As more questions are asked, and answers are finally given, we expect changes will need to be made in how the Hotel Motel Tax Governing Board conducts its business, the City’s business, our business.

*This does not include the “Promotional Fee” taxes collected directly by the Tourism Office without the involvement of the City Treasurer.
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Improper Claims of Voluminous Requests or Recurrence

While recent requests have been identified as “voluminous” (a definition which we have not accepted), it appears the Attorney General’s Office has agreed with our position.  They denied McHenry County’s claim that a McHenry County Blog site could be denied documents, or delayed access due to their being defined as “Voluminous” or “Recurrent”.   They were ordered to comply with the FOIA requests.

This same approach can be applied to Open Nauvoo.  The City of Nauvoo, and its FOIA Compliance Officer may want to review this case. It will be referenced in future FOIA requests.  A copy was provided to the Nauvoo City FOIA Officer on 4/25/2017.

After discussion with the Attorney General’s office, if a timely response is not received, another review request will be submitted.

It is provided here for reference:

 

 

 

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Nauvoo City Pattern of Delay and Deny

The letter received by the City of Nauvoo on April 19, 2017 which referred to FOIA requests from April 10th and 12th, contained some specific requests.  It is interesting that when these delays are connected with previous delays, a pattern begins to emerge.

Our first FOIA request (27 February 2017) included a request for bids and contracts.  No bids were provided (still an open item with the Attorney General’s Office), and no contracts were provided.  This included the contract for the Tourism Director hired by the City’s Hotel Motel Board and paid with tax dollars.  In addition, the minutes provided of Hotel Motel Board meetings for 2013 were missing the three meetings where this contract was discussed.

The most recent requests included requests for Invoices submitted to the City of Nauvoo by the Tourism Director, and paid by the City.  These invoices included pay, travel and other expenses.  The FOIA request also included the invoices submitted to the city by Outlaw Tees (the Mayors business), and items related to the approval of TIF funds for the Nauvoo Market (where a City Alderman was functioning as an Operating Manager).  More information will be coming on these issues shortly.

So, the documents denied or delayed seem to fall into a couple of categories:

  1. Items related to the Tourism Director Contract (Nature of employment and compensation)
  2. Items related to potential conflicts of interest by City Officials

It would seem that these would be the first documents the City would want to share with Citizens if the desire was to instill trust and openness.  But this has not been our experience so far.

 

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Proposed Nauvoo City 2018 Budget

This proposed budget is the opportunity for citizens to review and provide input in how their money will be spent in the coming fiscal year. There are numerous questions raised in its pages.  Further analysis is coming, but pay particular attention to Interfund Transfers, and the increase the “Community Building/Recreation Improvements”. Articles are being researched now that will bring additional light to these areas of the City Budget.

We remain hopeful that this budget remains “proposed” until citizens have had the opportunity to ask questions and provide input.

A companion document to your review of the proposed budget should be Games Government Accountants Play.

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City of Nauvoo Response to FOIA Request

The letter below was received on 19 April 2017.  The time requirement to reply to a FOIA request submitted on April 11 had run out, but rather than provide the requested documents, a claim was made that the FOIA request, and one dated April 13, constitute a “voluminous request.”  This is a new addition to the FOIA statute added in 2009, which makes it more difficult for citizens to request information.  It is interesting that that bill that modified FOIA did not extend these restrictions to the media, only to citizens.

If more than five categories of documents are requested in a 20 day period, it may be termed a “voluminous request”, which can allow the City additional time, or even potentially allow them to deny it pending review by the Attorney General (like the other requests currently being reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office).  In light of the Mayor’s invitation during the recent election, this is curious.  He stated, on numerous occasions, that if we wanted to see anything we just had to “ask”.  It’s also interesting that rather that the 20 day restriction would expire next Tuesday (25 April 2017) in any case.  So, all this response did was delay the inevitable necessity of responding to the request.

Time and again the City takes the position that forces justification of any request, rather than the “just ask” policy stated in the election.  It is not a matter of privacy, security, or any other understandable issue…it is simply a delay.  While the City may or may not have the law on their side on this reply (this has been referred to the Attorney General’s Office, once more), it certainly does not look like the “transparent” government we were told we had.

It is interesting to note the documents that were requested on these recent FOIA requests.  They include copies of invoices, income (revenue) transaction details, and a copy of the current municipal ordinances.  Seeing how the City’s monies are spent, with whom, and ensuring the responsible selection of vendors, as well as providing access to municipal ordinances, income and expenses to all citizens, is the purpose of open Nauvoo.  Whether the information is embarrassing, inappropriate or even reveals potentially illegal activities, should not prevent citizens from having access to it, to make their own determination.  These documents inform, and sometimes expose, but they belong to the people.  Unfortunately the policy of the City seems consistent with a statement reported by the Daily Democrat in March: “one council member stated that it was a balance of the “public’s need to know, and the city government’s need to protect its financial information”.”  The city has no financial information, it’s all ours, the citizens.

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