We had to listen to “We are a small town and as such do not have to follow laws” Really!!!

From the Time Rhett Bullard became our Mayor and with Spencer Lofton as the subsequent Mayor, all I have heard is that we are such a small town and we do not have to follow laws…not relating to Charter and Robert’s Rules of Order; not relating to the Local Option Fuel Taxes; Not relating to General Accounting Principles; Not relating to the Sunshine Laws and obviously not relating to public records.  You will recall Bullard’s famous words “You wish for us to admit we are not following the law?”.
Then there was our amazing Finance Director who stated this evening that we are just a small Town and we do not have to follow the rules….for which Griffin said “I guess it doesn’t matter that you are not following the law?   This has been the problem with White Springs.  The Town prefers country bumpkins to anyone who has intelligence and knowledge; that way they can continually make excuses, but never correct the problem.
What I learned tonight is that we are so lucky to have a REAL LIVE INTELLIGENT LAW ABIDING ATTORNEY.    Ms. Tomlinson decided to advise the Council and the public that the reason that Ken Daniels refused an invitation to come to our Council meeting was due to the fact that we put out Requests for Proposals for auditors which we are required to do after so many years.   Pam even questionned how Mayor Miller and Councilman Tom Moore knew Mr. Daniels would not attend the workshop.  Tom Moore received an e-mail as did Mayor Miller and how is it that Pam Tomlinson feels she is more important than council members to retain such information.   Well our attorney was reviewing the contract and from what she could see, there would be nothing which would break the contract if a request for other proposals would be made.  His contract is still valid but Ms. Logan, esquire, will review the contract in full and contact Mr. Daniels.
Mr. Daniels cannot even read his own contract….or is it that he is fearful at this stage of the game that everyone knows that he made a huge error in his summation of the Local Option Fuel Tax revenue handling…which he tried to use words, the last time he told us we were in a cash flow problem, quickly covering the matter up by telling us we should do as we wish.   and for all of you accountants and CPA’s when did the General Accounting Principles ever say that if street and road work was being done, that office staff could take 25% of their salaries out of such street and road budget because they issued a check or they told someone to do something.  What is even more hilarious is the fact that we didn’t spend more than $6000 in Streets and road repairs…so taking Pam’s salary and retirement of 25% pf $46000 (?) means more salary came out of the street and road LOFT money (11,500) than what was spent on the actual repairs.  Then there is Stacy Tebo whose retirement and salary was in the initial budget draft of 25% as well, but she elected to remove it during the Workshop.
This is the situation.  Florida’s Department of Revenue Attorney said that money not spent on “Transportation” needs to be paid back but the State including the senators and representatives dare not touch Towns.  The State protects its towns. They expect citizens to sue.  But from what I learned from the revenue Attorney is that Towns are dependent upon CPA’s to do the right thing; that is why no other town other than White Springs has mis-spent their funds….so who would be in that brier patch of suits?  Why, it would be our CPA.   That is probably why Mr. Daniels does not wish to make such a presentation to White Springs.  After threatening us with harassment, he probably now knows he is wrong.
“Section 336.025(1), Florida Statutes, authorizes a local option gas tax of one to six cents upon every gallon of motor fuel and special fuel sold in a county and taxed under the provisions of part I or part II of chapter 206, Florida Statutes.[1] The statute limits the use of such tax revenues by county and municipal governments “only for transportation expenditures.”[2] For purposes of the section, “transportation expenditures” is defined to mean expenditures by the local government for the following programs:
“(a) Public transportation operations and maintenance.
(b) Roadway and right-of-way maintenance and equipment and structures used primarily for the storage and maintenance of such equipment.
(c) Roadway and right-of-way drainage.
(d) Street lighting.
(e) Traffic signs, traffic engineering, signalization, and pavement markings.
(f) Bridge maintenance and operation.
(g) Debt service and current expenditures for transportation capital projects in the foregoing program areas, including construction or reconstruction of roads.”[3]
In addition to the above-cited uses, counties with a population of 50,000 or less on April 1, 1992, may use local option gas tax revenues to fund infrastructure projects that are consistent with the local government’s approved comprehensive plan or, if approval or denial of plan has not become final, consistent with the last plan submitted to the state.[4] 
Where a statute enumerates the things upon which it operates, it is ordinarily construed as excluding from its operation all things not expressly mentioned.[5] Thus, a list of expenditures allowed for local option gas tax revenues, precludes use of such revenues for any other purpose.
While local option gas tax revenues may be used for “public transportation operations and maintenance,” the term is not defined in the statute. Chapter 336, Florida Statutes, however, generally provides for a county road system as the responsibility of the county commission.[6] Furthermore, the enumerated uses of local option gas tax revenues all relate to roadways and appurtenant areas, structures and devices within the county road system. The “county road system” is defined as “all collector roads in the unincorporated areas of a county and all extensions of such collector roads into and through any incorporated areas, all local roads in the unincorporated areas, and all urban minor arterial roads not in the State Highway System.”[7] Runways at a local airport do not fall within the definition of the county road system.[8]”
Did you see “salaries, designer water, clothing, etc”. in the definition?  And why can’t one complete a time sheet, stipulating the time the job commenced and the time of completion and what was done.  That should be done for every employee who handles multiple jobs in different departments.  Oh but of course, we are a small town and we can’t handle the things a large town would handle nor can we be expected to?  Isn’t that right Pam?  The problem is that the people hired to do work in town Hall do not have the education required to match their respective titles.
This portion of the Attorney General’s letter states it all and at least Tom Moore asked that we keep a restrictive fund and it was decided to do so and since Stacy Tebo indicated that all Local Option Fuel Tax revenues are budgeted through Streets and Roads, it was stated that right or wrong, we will have to place all items we spend whether on salaries, etc in that restricted fund.   Should be interesting if we are audited won’t it?   Of course there is Vice Mayor Walter McKenzie who feels by doing this everything is to the better and we are moving ahead.  Mayor Miller reminded everyone that if we receive an answer from the attorney General, which states what some of us believe,  the entire budget may have to be redone.   Isn’t White Springs a hoot.
We now have a great Attorney; We now need a Great CPA.   At the beginning of the workshop, Mayor Miller indicated that in reviewing the statute; specifically 218.391 and its sub-parts, it indicates that a council Member may be on the Audit committee and she asked that Stacy Tebo print the information out so the community has it and the parts indicating what questions should be asked..
218.391 Auditor selection procedures.
(1) Each local governmental entity, district school board, charter school, or charter technical career center, prior to entering into a written contract pursuant to subsection (7), except as provided in subsection (8), shall use auditor selection procedures when selecting an auditor to conduct the annual financial audit required in s. 218.39.
(2) The governing body of a county, municipality, special district, district school board, charter school, or charter technical career center shall establish an auditor selection committee.
(a) The auditor selection committee for a county must, at a minimum, consist of each of the county officers elected pursuant to the county charter or s. 1(d), Art. VIII of the State Constitution or their respective designees and one member of the board of county commissioners or its designee.
(b) The auditor selection committee for a municipality, special district, district school board, charter school, or charter technical career center must consist of at least three members. One member of the auditor selection committee must be a member of the governing body of an entity specified in this paragraph, who shall serve as the chair of the committee.
(c) An employee, a chief executive officer, or a chief financial officer of the county, municipality, special district, district school board, charter school, or charter technical career center may not serve as a member of an auditor selection committee established under this subsection; however, an employee, a chief executive officer, or a chief financial officer of the county, municipality, special district, district school board, charter school, or charter technical career center may serve in an advisory capacity.
(d) The primary purpose of the auditor selection committee is to assist the governing body in selecting an auditor to conduct the annual financial audit required in s. 218.39; however, the committee may serve other audit oversight purposes as determined by the entity’s governing body. The public may not be excluded from the proceedings under this section.
(3) The auditor selection committee shall:
(a) Establish factors to use for the evaluation of audit services to be provided by a certified public accounting firm duly licensed under chapter 473 and qualified to conduct audits in accordance with government auditing standards as adopted by the Florida Board of Accountancy. Such factors shall include, but are not limited to, ability of personnel, experience, ability to furnish the required services, and such other factors as may be determined by the committee to be applicable to its particular requirements.
(b) Publicly announce requests for proposals. Public announcements must include, at a minimum, a brief description of the audit and indicate how interested firms can apply for consideration.
(c) Provide interested firms with a request for proposal. The request for proposal shall include information on how proposals are to be evaluated and such other information the committee determines is necessary for the firm to prepare a proposal.
(d) Evaluate proposals provided by qualified firms. If compensation is one of the factors established pursuant to paragraph (a), it shall not be the sole or predominant factor used to evaluate proposals.
(e) Rank and recommend in order of preference no fewer than three firms deemed to be the most highly qualified to perform the required services after considering the factors established pursuant to paragraph (a). If fewer than three firms respond to the request for proposal, the committee shall recommend such firms as it deems to be the most highly qualified.
(4) The governing body shall inquire of qualified firms as to the basis of compensation, select one of the firms recommended by the auditor selection committee, and negotiate a contract, using one of the following methods:
(a) If compensation is not one of the factors established pursuant to paragraph (3)(a) and not used to evaluate firms pursuant to paragraph (3)(e), the governing body shall negotiate a contract with the firm ranked first. If the governing body is unable to negotiate a satisfactory contract with that firm, negotiations with that firm shall be formally terminated, and the governing body shall then undertake negotiations with the second-ranked firm. Failing accord with the second-ranked firm, negotiations shall then be terminated with that firm and undertaken with the third-ranked firm. Negotiations with the other ranked firms shall be undertaken in the same manner. The governing body, in negotiating with firms, may reopen formal negotiations with any one of the three top-ranked firms, but it may not negotiate with more than one firm at a time.
(b) If compensation is one of the factors established pursuant to paragraph (3)(a) and used in the evaluation of proposals pursuant to paragraph (3)(d), the governing body shall select the highest-ranked qualified firm or must document in its public records the reason for not selecting the highest-ranked qualified firm.
(c) The governing body may select a firm recommended by the audit committee and negotiate a contract with one of the recommended firms using an appropriate alternative negotiation method for which compensation is not the sole or predominant factor used to select the firm.
(d) In negotiations with firms under this section, the governing body may allow a designee to conduct negotiations on its behalf.
(5) The method used by the governing body to select a firm recommended by the audit committee and negotiate a contract with such firm must ensure that the agreed-upon compensation is reasonable to satisfy the requirements of s. 218.39 and the needs of the governing body.
(6) If the governing body is unable to negotiate a satisfactory contract with any of the recommended firms, the committee shall recommend additional firms, and negotiations shall continue in accordance with this section until an agreement is reached.
(7) Every procurement of audit services shall be evidenced by a written contract embodying all provisions and conditions of the procurement of such services. For purposes of this section, an engagement letter signed and executed by both parties shall constitute a written contract. The written contract shall, at a minimum, include the following:
(a) A provision specifying the services to be provided and fees or other compensation for such services.
(b) A provision requiring that invoices for fees or other compensation be submitted in sufficient detail to demonstrate compliance with the terms of the contract.
(c) A provision specifying the contract period, including renewals, and conditions under which the contract may be terminated or renewed.
(8) Written contracts entered into pursuant to subsection (7) may be renewed. Such renewals may be done without the use of the auditor selection procedures provided in this section. Renewal of a contract shall be in writing.
(9) If the entity fails to select the auditor in accordance with the requirements of subsections (3)-(6), the entity must again perform the auditor selection process in accordance with this section to select an auditor to conduct audits for subsequent fiscal years.
It truly is sad that Walter McKenzie is so biased when it comes to any information provided by Joe or I, that he will do anything to speak or make decisions to the contrary.  I say to you McKenzie, your education, if any, was not in the areas of Joe or Mine and we do the research before we bring anything up and we can only speak that which we have been told by the State representatives and the Department of Transportation sent us to many various departments because FDOT execs were upset about what White Springs was spending their money on.  So no matter how you try to spin a story, it just is not how others in the know look at things….so give other people an opportunity.  Other people just may have the correct information and sooner or later you will look like a fool.

 

Just because we are a small town doesn’t mean that its Citizens and residents are stupid.  We’ve all had careers and many of us have been in Executive positions.

 

Karin for the blog

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