Thursday, June 24, 2010

CFO VOTE

If I gave the impression yesterday that I was angry so be it. If the resolution about requesting the state to provide a temporary CFO had been defeated by a 4;3 vote, I would accepted the results with regret but not with rancor. But to have such an important resolution fail because two Council members were not present at the only scheduled business meeting for the month is unconscionable.

It is true that there is on the present Council a division based on political factions which may not work for the benefit of the general public. Under Council President McWilliams there has been an attempt to make the Administration fiscally responsible. Council President McWillimas's chastisement of Administration was well deserved and commendable. Administration's track record in filling the posts of Director of Finances, and CFO indicate that this is of such low priority that the impression evolves that it is to Administration's interest to have those posts vacant.

I can understand and appreciate Councilor Reid's negative vote. I am convinced if Councilor Rivers had been present she would have voted no. Of the two Councilors originally elected as members of the "New Democrats" faction I am puzzled by Councilman Burney's negative vote especially in view of the party chairman's shifting blame on Burney's defeat from material originating in party headquarters to the candidate himself. And sad to say, intentional or not, Councilwoman Carter's arrival after the vote relieved her of the responsibility of having to publicly express an opinion.

If Council President McWilliams can be assured of four votes this matter should be on the Special meeting agenda. With this the subject in this blog shall be a moot one until the situation changes.

On a similar subject, the changes in the proposed draft ordinance to amend sections 2.6-7(e & f)) of the City Code should not be dependent on the opinion of a hostile Corporation Counsel. Unfortunately in conflicts between Council and Administration in legal matters despite the Charter the Corporation Counsel can not ethically represent both parties.

I would like to make it clear that I am not questioning Corporation Counsel Williamson's integrity. The fault lies in the city charter which ignores the dictum that "no man can serve two masters". The Corporation Counsel position is a Mayor's appointment. In controversy between the two arms of the city government he can only represent one side unless there is a possibility of arbitration. That is a fact of life.

On legal matters, the change of attorneys by the new BOA can only be a positive one. It would be of interest to know what are if any political encumbrances of the new firm. I can not conceive of any group of attorneys dealing in civic matters as being without some political ties. It is important that they can not impact on the local PSS's affairs.

13 comments:

  1. I also am displeased regarding the council's lack of attendance. They receive 10K for their service. Granted, for the work they put in, it is not much money. However, it is their choice to run, and they know the renumeration and work involved.

    Why bother to have Council members if they don't show up, especially when there is a vote involved?

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  2. "IF" you came across as angry..so be it. The citizens of Plainfield should be "angry" at the circus that has become city government since the placement of Assistant Mayor Sharon at the helm by Jerry Green. The city council does in fact have a set amount of guidelines that it operates under when you have a city leader actually leading in a responsible and intelligent fashion. When the city leader goes out of their way to create chaos, confusion, ineptitude, and fiscal irresponsibility amongst the rest of her traveling circus...that's when the city council steps up and strong arms the executive branch into doing what's right. I agree that the mayor could then attempt to bring legal action against the city council...but I truly do not think our "mayor" wants to have any more light or hard scrutiny brought upon her weak and lame administration. I would call her bet on every maneuver. She will either suddenly get a little religion or get sick of it and move on...or better yet..get voted out when the public sees what a hot mess her everyday activities truly are.

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  3. In regards to the CFO vote, your anger is understandable. The two Council members that missed the vote are obligated to explain their absence to their respective Ward constituents. In regards to the vote itself and the critical need for a CFO, I'm at a lose as to the opposition to ask the State for help in appointing an interim CFO until a permanent one can be appointed. It just doesn't make sense or demonstrate appropriate governance.

    You make a good point about the apparent conflict-of-interest associated with Plainfield's Corporation Counsel, Atty. Williamson. The following is his role description from Plainfield's website:

    "Daniel A. Williamson serves as the Corporation Counsel to the City of Plainfield. He is the chief legal advisor to the Mayor and City Council while managing the preparation and supervisory of the entire annual legal budget. In addition, he is responsible for defending the City’s interest(s) in all litigation." [www.plainfield.com/corp_counsel.htm]

    As you noted, Atty Willamson cannot represent both the Council and the Mayor at the same time. As the Mayor has threatened to do in the past, who would Atty Williamson represent if the Mayor sued City Council? The Mayor and Council would obviously have conflicting interests? Assuming its accuracy, please note the following extract from Professional Responsibility (replaced the Canon of Ethics governing Attorney responsibilities):

    "..... One of the most critical elements of professional responsibility is keeping confidential all information regarding representation of the client. In addition, a lawyer must avoid representing others with interests that conflict with those of the client..............Not only may a lawyer not represent interests that conflict with those of the client, but he may not represent interests that conflict with those of other clients in the law firm.......". [http://www.answers.com/topic/professional-responsibility]

    It appears that Atty Williamson's role description is in error and he is acting as a Solicitor General or Attorney General in that he is exclusively representing the interests of city government's Executive Branch (Mayor's Office). Note the following definitions (from a Federal perspective):

    "The solicitor general is charged with representing the executive branch of the U.S. government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that the solicitor and the solicitor's staff are the chief courtroom lawyers for the government preparing legal briefs and making oral arguments in the......." [http://answers.encyclopedia.com/question/responsibilities-solicitor-general-428322.html]

    "A key member of the president's cabinet, the attorney general supervises the many divisions, bureaus, and offices of the DOJ. Unlike other cabinet members, however, the attorney general also functions as a practicing attorney, serving as the president's legal adviser." [http://answers.encyclopedia.com/question/responsibilities-attorney-general-344979.html]

    I would be curious as to Atty William's response to this apparent conflict.

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  4. OldDoc, you wrote: "..... But to have such an important resolution fail because two Council members were not present at the only scheduled business meeting for the month is unconscionable. ..."

    As I wrote in my 6/24, 1:08 PM reply, I stated I could understand your anger and concern; however, the above statement as written could also be interpreted as you subtly implying possible malfeasance or lack of professionalism on the part of the two Council members who missed the CFO vote. Without an explanation, from the Council members in question, such an implication would be premature and unfair. What if their respective explanations are totally credible, acceptable and understandable? Then, in my opinion, the failure to pass the resolution would be unfortunate and not "unconscionable".

    If your intent was not to imply a lack of professionalism on the part of the absent Council members, please accept my apologies but note that the way you worded the sentence lent itself to be interpreted as I did.

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  5. 1:08&4:46PM Anon. Your two commentaries are most appreciated. I would hope that many others read them.
    The Corporation Counsel position now a full time position and so funded by a retainer plus per case per diem. I do not know when the change took place. On a retainer basis the council could afford its own legal advisor without conflict with the charter's description of that position .

    Relating to 4:46 You need not apologize. Councilwoman Rivers missed both meetings this month and her attendance and promptness has been somewhat spotty. I would suspect that this may be a result of her BOE antecedents.

    Although some of those sitting near me in the audience comment on the coincidence of the timing of the vote and Councilor Carter's late arrival, this is not the first time some other meeting had delayed her appearance at the Council.

    If I remember rightly, at the Agenda session she seemed to be reluctantly supporting the resolution, that is why it did have enough votes to be on the agenda.

    On the other hand I can not conceive any other meeting or cause other than family or business related that should take precedence over the fiduciary responsibility of the Councilor's office. The Council is not the Monday Afternoon Club or the Lions Club.

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  7. CORRECTION Somehow a few words dropped out of this paragraph while in transfer to the blog. The meaning is changed and unclear. The sentence reads:
    "The Corporation Counsel position now a full time position and so funded by a retainer plus per case per diem. I do not know when the change took place."
    The correct wording is:"The Corporation Counsel position is now a full time position and so funded. Previously it was funded by a retainer plus per case per diem. etc

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  8. Is the Mayor using an Executive Search firm to assist in identifying qualified CFO candidates? If not, would this be an appropriate option to consider? The search firm would do all the leg work, the initial marketing for candidates, vetting and interviewing. Suitable candidates would be forwarded to the Mayor as the next step in the selection process.

    I would also hope that the Mayor includes Councilman Mapp in the interviewing process. As a certified CFO and Council member, his perspective would be invaluable and also ensure City Council's participation in the process.

    If all the above is already occurring, great and disregard this reply.

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  9. To Anonymous at 10:44 AM: I heard the Mayor put a posting on Craigslist for the job since it was such a success for members of her administration.

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  10. To Rob (2:50 PM)

    Touche'. Even though I have been blogging about Hellwig being presumed innocent until proven guilty, I couldn't help but laugh. Good one.

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  11. Anon: You are most welcome. I am glad I could provide a bit of levity above and beyond the normal foolish antics of the Cheshire Cat and her handler Jerry.

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  13. To Anonymous (6/26, 7:40 PM)

    Today, I wrote a very long reply standing up for those of us that choose to comment anonymously. My reply hasn't been posted either because of a server problem or by the Blog Administrator's choice - all of which is ok. I didn't want the quality of Anonymous comments to be judged by our identities but by what we wrote; then I read your post. So much for quality.

    I take no exception with your opinion that you feel that Councilwoman Rivers is incompetent or not representing her Ward appropriately. I respect your right to share you opinion but where you crossed my line was when you made a statement of alleged fact without offering proof, i.e., you said Councilwoman Rivers was drinking at bars when she should have been at Council meetings.

    OldDoc made an interesting statement when discussing why he liked a particular blogger's comments:

    "More importantly his comments never consist of statements that may be true but can not be verified."

    I am challenging you to verify and/or prove your allegation. What bars, what dates and what times? I know stranger things have happened but it is inconceivable to me that any Council member would sit in a PUBLIC bar drinking when he/she should be at a Council meeting.

    Either put up or shut up.

    Anon

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