From the Desk of
County Councilman Billy Shreve
(1/2016) December Ö 12 months in office. #1 duty of the County Council is to provide budget oversight. So far Ö after 12 months we still have not hired a Budget Director. I have protested this repeatedly by abstaining on all budget related votes, over 60 times this year. (I refuse to do hunger strikes : )
To put things in perspective our Council has 4 employees. Other Councils that have started had a minimum of 10 employees on day one. Iím not a big government guy and donít propose hiring employees just to have them. But Ö If you are running a restaurant, you need a cook, dishwasher, and server. The Council inherited a $550 million dollar budget and a population of 240,000.
An entity this size requires staff to handle the day to day operations, on day one! We arenít running a coffee shop, we need employees. A budget Director and an Attorney would make a great start.
After weeks of Bud Otis "still working on it" I led a committee to suggest which direction the Council should move to have budget oversight for the upcoming budget year. The "Budget Committee" was Councilman Donald, Chmelik, Delauter, me, and the head of the County Internal Audit Department. The group decided we should hire a large consulting firm that does this work for
other municipal governments to oversee the budget process. The Consultants were hired very late in the FY 2016 budget process.
Overseeing the FY 2016 budget process for the County Executive was the familiar names of Doug Browning and Mike Gastley. Both long term Government & County employees. Browning had served as Frederick Community College President during the Young BoCC and Gastley retired from the Budget Director position during the Young Board. Information given to the Consultants hired by
the Council was sparse and left the Consultants with nothing to provide to the Council. The timing between the Council hearings and the County Executive budget presentations was extremely tight and the Council decided it was useless to have the Consultants proceed with so little information, and no hope of getting more information in the future.
Without a budget consultant onboard last year, the council had nobody to run scenarios to move line items, change the finance models, or make any changes whatsoever to anything, and easily see the results. The spreadsheets used to generate the budget were asked for, but were not shared with the council.
Councilman Delauter did manage to input some of the data into his private company accounting software and make comprehensive recommendations at the council budget hearings, but nothing substantial changed.
The Council had no professional representation during the FY 2016 Budget Hearings. I scheduled a private meeting with Mr. Gastley to review the initial budget and a second to follow up with more questions. The Second meeting Mr. Gastley cancelled and said would not be rescheduled.
During the Campaign, the summer of 2014, Mr. Gastley made a campaign commercial for now County Executive Jan Gardner stating a budget deficit was left by the Young BoCC, supported the Gardner campaign, and wrote a letter to the Editor doing the same. When questioned by Councilman Delauter in a public meeting April 2015 about that campaign commercial and the numbers he
used, Mr Gastley stated no deficit was left by the Young BoCC.
Councilman Bud Otis wants to hire Mike Gastley as the Council Budget Director. So Ö Mike Gastley helped create the budget for the County Executive (CE) last year, did a campaign commercial for the CE, wrote a Letter Supporting the Campaign of CE, and then admitted in a public meeting what he stated in the campaign commercial was not accurate? What faith can we have that
Gastley will actually get it right this time? How can we believe he will support the Council and not the County Executive?
I do not want a repeat of last yearís budget Fiasco. The Council needs a budget director to oversee the budget creation process, advise the Council, and oversee the transactions throughout the year that take place on a regular basis. Basically we need someone to watch and balance the $550 million dollar taxpayer checkbook.
One day one, December of 2014, Councilman Otis had the money to hire a budget director. He consciously decided not to hire a budget director. In this yearís budget, beginning July 1, 2015, the money was there to hire a budget director, still, Bud Otis did not hire anyone.
Suddenly, a week ago, Councilman Otis announced he has decided to hire Mike Gastley? Why Mike? Why now? Why didnít the Council advertise the position to the public? Why didnít we ever talk about this as a Council in a public meeting? Why wasnít there a public process? Where is the transparency? Why is this a back door deal?
Call Bud Otis and tell him you, the taxpayer deserves the service you were promised. You deserve a dedicated budget Director for the County Council. Tell him to advertise the position and hire someone today who is truly independent! BOtis@FrederickCountyMD.gov 240-397-0353
We need to advertise this position and hire the best-qualified person for the job. Hopefully they have no political ties, and no political history.
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