A remiss Port Richey City Council must determine to what else it has turned a blind eye. Tuesday, the council learned an outside audit had substantiated allegations of purchasing irregularities at City Hall that had been brought to members' attention last year. The council responded to the audit with a unanimous vote to suspend departing City Manager Ellen Posivach, but some council members' own oversight is just as troubling.
Kevin Hamm, who worked as an information-technologies manager at City Hall for 10 years before his termination last fall, told the council of his concerns during an October meeting. He accused Posivach of wasteful spending and failing to follow the city's purchasing rules. While some members agreed on the need for an outside audit, Mayor Richard Rober displayed blind loyalty to the city manager and characterized Hamm as a disgruntled former vendor grinding an ax.
Too bad Rober's ax isn't as sharp. A routine audit by accountant Judd Baggett of Zephyrhills confirmed some of Hamm's allegations: Posivach, as purchasing manager, circumvented the council's authority by authorizing transactions above the limit at which she can act autonomously. It means the public could have overpaid and not known it.
Specifically, Posivach bought a $35,000 emergency replacement for the lightning damaged city water system without council approval. The city also paid a contractor more than $25,000 to build a water meter-communications tower without seeking quotes from other vendors.
"Large purchases are being made without being let out for public bid. The City Council and taxpayer have no way of knowing if the contract prices are fair and reasonable,'' Baggett wrote to the city.
It should sound familiar to the council. Hamm previously questioned the propriety of both purchases. Council members should wonder about what else Hamm was correct. Council members need to demand more transparency from staffers, and they need to alter their own lax standards when guarding the public purse.
Complacency shouldn't be a part of any elected officials' job description when it comes to financial oversight.