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'Enough is enough,' Crestwood citizen says

To the editor:

"Enough is enough!" is the battle cry that Crestwood residents should be shouting.

The current administration's claims of the financial dire straits that the city is now in should not end with the "forensic audit" that has recently been conducted.

The current Crestwood city administration has done everything in its power to shift the focus away from their own questionable activities by pinning the blame for the current financial situation on the previous city administration.

Yes, the current administration's only desire is to be the hero in the eyes of the citizens of Crestwood. However, as evidence of the alleged accounting blunders began to surface in 2002 the current administration has continued to pursue various deals that will likely leave Crestwood in much worse financial shape.

The redevelopment of the southeast corner of Grant and Watson road is a prime example. The current administration was set to move forward with a plan that involved the unethical use of eminent domain to transfer the properties from the present owners to a wealthy developer for the private purpose of constructing a set of apartments and a few high price condominiums.

They proposed providing TIF as a means to "help" the already wealthy developer at the longer-term expense of the citizens of Crestwood.

Another example is the automobile deal that went down in closed session between the Board of Aldermen and the current city administrator. This is the deal in which the board agreed to allow the city administrator to trade his vacation time for the city-owned car that he was driving at the time. In addition to trading the city car for the city administrator's vacation time, the board also approved an $830 per month automobile stipend so that the city administrator could purchase and operate his own automobile at the city's expense.

I understand that he immediately went out and traded the previously city-owned automobile in for a BMW. Yes, legally it is his automobile. But, the citizens of Crestwood are ultimately paying for it. Don't be fooled by what the city administrator says. The $830 per month stipend includes the monthly payment for a car. Do the math using the standard GSA rate — $0.365 per mile — for automobile use reimbursement.

Assume 1,000 miles per month; answer = $365. Or, make your own assumptions on what it would cost to operate an automobile in a one-month period. I think that you will find that under reasonable conditions it is much less than $830 per month.

By the time these deals were approved by the board, they knew very well that Crestwood's financial outlook was dismal.

Why then did the board approve these deals when it could have saved some money and had the city administrator continue to drive the city car? This could have been accomplished at much less expense than $830 per month.

Now that the deal is done, if the board ever decides to terminate the deal with the city administrator, the city is also out the trade-in value of a city-owned car. This lost trade-in value would have ultimately reduced the overall cost on the eventual purchase of a new city car.

Another issue related to the city administrator's trading of 159 hours of his vacation time for the city car is that it appears that the city has a bigger problem associated with vacation accrual by employees. The city will soon have to pay $36,000 to the previous city administrator for the vacation time he accrued as an employee of the city.

This is roughly equivalent to 800 hours of vacation or in other terms, approximately 20 weeks of vacation. Does the city not im-pose accrual limits on vacation time provided to employees? If they did, they wouldn't find themselves backed into a corner having to make suspicious deals with employees to exchange vacation time for other tangible items.

One other thing that bothers me about this is that it gives the appearance that the employees never take vacation time, this amongst other things is unhealthy. Or perhaps they are taking vacation time, but never recording it as such. There are plenty of other examples of the current administration's abuse of power and lack of financial responsibility during a time when the city's finances were uncertain.

Three more examples are as follows: 1) The redecoration of the mayor's office at significant expense; 2) The retention at full salary — in excess of $90,000 per year — of the previous city administrator for "consulting purposes"; and 3) The continuation of improvements to the city's parks. In each of these cases a more prudent course of action could have been taken in order to lessen the impact on the city's, at the time, uncertain financial condition.

Allow me to ask this, if you knew that you were going to be out of work or take a significant salary cut in the coming year, what would you do? Tighten your financial belt and begin looking for another job or go on a spending spree? In a very similar situation our city staff, including the mayor, has too often chosen the latter option.

Perhaps when the state audit of Crestwood's questionable accounting practices is completed things will change. I agree with a recent suggestion made by a fellow Crestwood citizen. His suggestion is to form a citizen oversight committee to review the issues that are presented to the Board of Aldermen and provide oversight on their decisions.

Lastly and most importantly, we as citizens, voters and taxpayers of Crestwood need to ensure that in the near future, change for the better takes place in the positions of Crestwood city government.

Thomas Tench


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