UPDATED: Melton Blames Council for ‘Oversight' Woes | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

UPDATED: Melton Blames Council for ‘Oversight' Woes

The Jackson City Council learned during a Tuesday budget meeting that the city has "no supervisory oversight" on numerous municipal transactions, which is costing the city revenue and could ultimately jeopardize some federal grants. The internal audit, which led to Mayor Frank Melton walking out of the meeting, also revealed that some checks issued by the city are not clearing one year after issuance, and that the city is not accounting for its fixed assets.

"The city has had no up-to-date (asset) inventory since 2006," Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Valerie Nevels told the council. "…The city has no supervisory oversight, … (and) no separation of duty regarding fixed asset management."

Nevels also pointed out that the city had serious holes in the Department of Finance, with the accountant II position empty and unfunded for the last two budget years. The short staffing resulted in delays, with the city failing to complete financial statements by a Dec. 31 deadline. Financial statements for 2006 were not completed until July 2007.

Several federal grants could be at risk because of the city's lax accounting methods, particularly Federal Transit Administration grants going to the city's public busing system and the Community Oriented Policing Services hiring grant.

"Failure to timely submit our single audit two years in a row could result in the freezing of all federal funds," Nevels warned, pointing out that the city has already been forced to re-pay some grants because personnel could not appropriately track the grant funds to make sure they were being put to their federally determined use. "…The belief in the city is that you can do what you want with (grant money), and that's why we've had to repay them," she said.

On top of critical holes in the Department of Finance, the city is also falling behind in information security, with the city's software and file-sharing network in need of updating, back-up filing and more experienced people to handle it.

"The software has no maintenance program and only one employee who has knowledge of the system," Nevels explained.

An issue that may directly affect city residents is the Finance Department's failure to track customer billing. Nevels said the city has no process for verifying whether services (electric or water) have been received by customers, or if the services are even necessary in some cases. The city also has no method to detect customer over-billing by checking their billing history.

Mayor Frank Melton said he had brought Nevels on to address the issue, but said "nobody seems to be listening (to her)."

City Council President Leslie McLemore suggested Melton immediately fill the Accountant II position, and rebuild the city's contract compliance office.

"It seems to me that part of the answer obviously is to come up with personnel to carry out assignments," McLemore said, and suggested Melton deal with departmental indifference. "[S]ince nobody's listening, and they report to you, ... I would go ahead and make a decision about some of those people who are not listening."

Melton took offense at the suggestion, explaining that the people who were not listening were "sitting here with me on this dais," and blamed the council for not authorizing his proposed budget last year, which would have re-financed a greater portion of the city's debt, but dumped higher interest rates on the city for the next 10 years. The council had instead approved a smaller debt-refinancing plan last year.

"We brought to this council a budget in August last year that would've given the police and fire department a balanced budget, and this council turned it down. … Had we approved it … we'd be able to deal with some of the issues that we're bringing up."

"(Director of Administration Rick) Hill brought us a balanced budget, but it would have decimated parks and other divisions … and we were balancing it on the backs of the people who do the work of the city," McLemore argued.

Budget Chairman Marshand Crisler said department management ultimately fell to the executive branch.

"To sit here and say (Nevels) has given this info to the administration and directors and nobody's listening would fall on that side of the aisle," Crisler said. "… The executive officer says he wants it done, and it gets done. The council doesn't have authority over the directors."

As if to warn the council who, indeed, was the boss of the directors, Melton took that moment to caution council members to stop contacting department heads.

"I don't want y'all calling the department heads anymore. That's over. That ends today. … If (department heads) don't follow my directives, they will be terminated; and if they listen to you over me, they'll be terminated. … They'll take their instructions from me," Melton said.

Melton then began his characteristic storming-out-of-the-chamber move, although Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman asked him not to go.

"I beg you to at least let us continue," Tillman asked.

"I'll do that, but all eight of us have to be accountable. … You're going to have to share some of the accountability," Melton said, and then left anyway.

Previous Comments

ID
98115
Comment

It is horrible when one's jaw doesn't even drop anymore...

Author
katbird
Date
2008-01-22T15:15:14-06:00
ID
98116
Comment

There's so much ineptitude and incompetence downtown that these “Jackson financial woes” stories all tend to run together over time.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-01-22T15:20:42-06:00
ID
98117
Comment

Again, our new slogan should be: Jackson, where Frank stanks, and the city council blanks.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2008-01-22T16:33:44-06:00
ID
98118
Comment

jaw drop... I don't even blink an eye. And when did Melton become in charge?

Author
lanier77
Date
2008-01-22T16:34:03-06:00
ID
98119
Comment

Typical Frank Melton blame game. City government has become so inept under him, it ain't funny. Up until three weeks ago, I was a city employee. I won't say what department I worked for, but most of my fellow employees, if not everyone, I worked with want out too. I was one of four in my department that left in a two-week time span (one was for medical reasons; myself and the other two--we had better opportunities for ourselves).

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-01-22T20:56:07-06:00
ID
98120
Comment

So the golden eagle has flown the coop! :-P

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-01-22T22:01:22-06:00
ID
98121
Comment

I weep for my city. I truly weep. Everyone blames another. every branch blames the other, and in the end 1. Our streets are in awful condition 2. There is NO plan for revitalization or an urban renewal as other cities have done 3. There is no concept of any fiscal management in our city 4. Crime is still a problem, though less than other cities if you really compare. And I must say, the perception of crime is better, and that does matter. 5. There needs to be more development downtown. Again I see this as getting better, but it needs to be growing by leaps and bounds Finally we NEED a government the city as a whole can believe in and support. Not the factions of the mayor versus the people that oppose him Solutions.... That is where I am short. Frank is not the answer, nor are several other mayors. There needs to be a leader emerge that can lead, without reliance on race, gender, or economic status and LEAD. Do what needs to be done. We need to revitalize the city, we need to encourage growth and we need to fix the problems that destroy our city. neighborhoods are trying to either revitalize themselves or keep blight out. We need to encourage neighborhoods to work together, while offering incentives to rebuild areas and fix the blight AGamma637

Author
AGamm627
Date
2008-01-23T00:53:23-06:00
ID
98122
Comment

So the golden eagle has flown the coop! :-P Not only that, but I've landed in a much better situation.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-01-23T08:20:30-06:00
ID
98123
Comment

why is this even news? Sounds like business as usual to me...

Author
eyerah
Date
2008-01-23T09:31:09-06:00
ID
98124
Comment

Nothing Melton does shocks me anymore, unless he's actually doing something good. Now that would be news.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-01-23T09:58:31-06:00
ID
98125
Comment

Maybe you're that leader, AGamm. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-01-23T10:08:55-06:00
ID
98126
Comment

Or maybe the City had a leader, one who loved Jackson and understood the office of Mayor and did everything to avoid these kinds of problems. We must look at our history and learn from it. Too many were fooled by their own selfish reasons to get Johnson out. Too many complained that they didn't know what Johnson was doing. One thing we can say for sure, we know that he didn't do any of the things listed in this article to bring shame, harm and financial loss to this City. He left a surplus: Above all was his respect for himself and others.

Author
justjess
Date
2008-01-23T12:17:59-06:00
ID
98127
Comment

I agree Justjess, I saw Harvey Johnson on Campus yesterday on my way to class and i asked him for the 8th time was he going to run he laughed and said were thinking about it. But my suggestion to harvey is to chose MACMILLAN as his Police chief during the campaign so he can get those northeast jacksonians to vote for him and all he has to do is point out his economic development projects downtown thats taking shape and say how Melton has cost the city money and exploit his failures and destroying the inner city and do a campaign commercial in front of the house on Ridgeway.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2008-01-23T12:39:41-06:00
ID
98128
Comment

Wow, NewJack, maybe Johnson should hire you as a publicist. :-P

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-01-23T14:35:19-06:00
ID
98129
Comment

Thanks L W if he allows

Author
NewJackson
Date
2008-01-23T14:53:03-06:00
ID
98130
Comment

Justjess...I've heard that statement from so many people around town - that they didn't know what Johnson was doing. My reply to them is typically to thank their local television stations and corporate-owned disgrace of a newspaper for that. Because the outlets were provided the information and either chose not to report the positive news or to bury it somewhere where it was often so obscure that you'd miss it if you blinked. And I’m not even talking about the negative stuff that was so often ratcheted up. Johnson was in all a ward-wide community meeting every single month for 8 years talking to the citizens and answering their questions as well - the easy questions, the tough questions and sometimes the downright ugly ones. I could go on and on..but I often ask myself: do some of the people out there choose to be blind out of sheer personal opposition or is there some other underlying dynamic at work?

Author
thabian
Date
2008-01-23T16:00:57-06:00
ID
98131
Comment

Yeap for some reason it baffles me how much rope Melton is given compared to johnson being hung for nothing.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2008-01-23T16:04:50-06:00
ID
98132
Comment

Justjess - And I wholeheartedly second that...

Author
lanier77
Date
2008-01-23T16:06:03-06:00
ID
98133
Comment

You're absolutely right, Justjess. By the way, has anybody seen or heard from Stephanie Parker Weaver or Hickingbottom lately? They seem to have quieted to a mere whisper, if that.

Author
Kacy
Date
2008-01-23T16:41:28-06:00
ID
98134
Comment

i would vote for H J if he ranned again, we need him even tho his naysayers want admit it his professionalism would bring instant joy back to this city, hes a great urban planner and would only bring more projects.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2008-01-23T16:49:57-06:00
ID
98135
Comment

Steph and Hicki have reached the same conclusion Chris Rock reached about rap music. Rock said "I still like rap but I can't defend the shit any longer."

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2008-01-23T16:55:23-06:00
ID
98136
Comment

I wonder who will run for Mayor next time but Newjack's suggestion is a good one. Assuming there isn't a white guy running in the general election that proposal should get Johnson some votes. Kinda icky talking about this since race politics are so divisive but you could look at it as a healthy counterpart to the old white candidate promoting the black police chief etc.

Author
GLewis
Date
2008-01-23T16:56:54-06:00
ID
98137
Comment

Do y'all think if Harvey proclaims that if he gets elected he would retain MAC as police chief make the White citizens in northeast Jackson and in south Jackson vote for him. I think it would Harvey may not want to do it but you got to play politics, Harvey gets what he wants in being re-elected and the whites northeast jacksonians get what they want, someone they can put their trust in and have respect for. We all know what killed Harvey in the last mayoral election whites in N E Jackson voting for Melton.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2008-01-23T18:45:12-06:00
ID
98138
Comment

New Jackson, I humbly suggest that you might want to re-think that statement about the white NE contingent electing Melton. Melton got over 80% of the vote in the Democratic Primary. The population of Jackson is 71% Black and 28% White and 1% other. Remember that same, and probably larger, white contingent couldn't re-elect Ditto. Harvey was rejected by the same people who elected him the first two times. He just messed up with his major supportere, which I must add in my most humble opinion, takes quite a bit of skill, diligence and perserverance! This is the same road taken by Bill Clinton in Arkansas and Robert Walker in Vicksburg. The bright side is that they both got re-elected after "eating crow and aggresively mending fences. Does Harvey Johnson have the humility, intelligence, fortitude and desire to do the same? Only the Shadow knows.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2008-01-23T19:35:06-06:00
ID
98139
Comment

Casual Observer i think the republicans were allowed to crossover and vote in the democratic primary because a republican didn't run. Somebody might need to help me out on this but i think thats what happened, And thats were Melton's votes came from. It dosen't take a scholar to know that most Northeast Jackson voters vote republican look a Jeff Wiell and Ben Allen, Republicans. So i think he got a shot if he shows the conservative whites in Jackson he will at least let them shake their finger at him and he will listen, and maybe you can answer this question for me. Why do most white southern conservatives dislike a African American candidate who want Bow down to them and comes of as offensive and dangerous, like Harvey Johnson. H J lost because he didn't bow down not because of crime. Don't believe the hype.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2008-01-23T20:18:49-06:00
ID
98140
Comment

I would encourage the JFP to make an open records request on the grants in question. Forward an inquiry to the Inspector General Offices’ in Washington, DC. The CL glosses over the story, but does not follow up. The IGs are required to investigate material weaknesses in internal control. There is no way the offenses mentioned are not material weaknesses. They are bound to investigate mis-appropriation of funds under Federal law and it’s their job.

Author
madisonresident
Date
2008-01-23T20:30:03-06:00
ID
98141
Comment

NewJack, I don't doubt that a majority of whites who voted in the last mayoral election voted for Frank, but he also needed the black vote as well. Frank won and Harvey lost due in part to a media (sans the JFP, of course) that did a piss-poor job in adequately arming the voters with all the facts about what each candidate has done or will do. The media in this town declared Frank the winner the minute he announced his candidacy. The balance was tipped much more in Frank's favor than to Harvey's. Anything Frank said and did, he was cheered on as if he were Superman. Harvey? Booed as if he were Lex Luthor. And remember how the C-L ripped Chief Moore about his crime perception statement? Did they ever do the same thing to Shirlene Anderson? If they did, they were about as mild-mannered as Clark Kent (sorry about all the corny Superman references here tonight). I need to get this back on topic...I agree with madisonresident. I don't know why this misadministration is so secret about how they do things in the city. What are they hiding from the citizens?

Author
golden eagle
Date
2008-01-23T20:53:33-06:00
ID
98142
Comment

New Jackson. You asked for help, so let me humbly oblige. Lets review the math. If all of the 28% of white ne jackson voters were Republican and they all crossed over to vote that would not account for half of the 80% plus that voted against Harvey. Of course you could argue that the white ne voters vote in higher percentages than the blacks. But hey, who's here to argue. Harvey lost not because he didn't bow down to the moneyed elite. He lost because when he was spending that 8 months going to ward meetings he had an unfortunate habit of "dissing" his constituents, in public, with great zeal and affect. He told a group of ministers when presented a wish list of governmental actions, and I paraphrase here "I am the Mayor of Jackson and I don't have to take orders from anyone". Oh yes and then he walked out. In another ward meeting he told a community leader who was asking why a COJ Department Head (I believe it was Ramie Ford) had not done what he had promised to do, and I paraphrase again here again "Don't you question my department heads about their actions". When asked why the department heads were at the meeting if they were not going to explain whay they hadn't done what they had said they would do, the response was pretty much the same. Harvey Johnson had the uncanny ability to talk down to his most ardent supporters at the most inopportune and public moments. He was the master if his fate and the captain of his destiny. Oh yes, he also forgot the adage "He who has the gold has the power". How many rich and powerful people did Dr. King humble himself to in order to get what he wanted for his people. How about Ghandi? How about Mandela? By the way , these great leaders not only humbled themselves before the rich and powerful, they presented a humble and dignified demeanor before everybody! God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Look it up! Oh yes, Mr. Johnson still has the opportunity to fulfill his leadership potential...if he starts to mend fences and surround himself with advisors with, spiritual faith, open hearts, clear heads and closed hands. I'd vote for him. Does this humble explanation shed light on Mr. Johnson's self imposed and self inflicted demise?

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2008-01-23T21:15:58-06:00
ID
98143
Comment

No Casual observer you answers dnt and want work and dnt be so humble.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2008-01-24T00:12:32-06:00
ID
98144
Comment

Harvey Johnson lost because more people voted against him than for him, but I haven't seen this broken down demographically by race. There are reasons to believe, though, that white voters were not the primary factor in the outcome of the, well, primary. There were some very strong black leaders--the late Charles Tisdale and Councilman Stokes, to name two examples--who wanted him gone. He had somehow run afoul of the AFL-CIO (which endorsed Melton), and I would not bet against any candidate in Jackson who receives the AFL-CIO endorsement. Remember, also, that he was elected in the same year when Frank Bluntson and Charles Tillman, running on an agenda similar to that of Melton, beat incumbents in wards 4 and 5. I'm sure there are backstories there that we don't know, but the issue that most voters appeared to be motivated by was crime. With respect to crossover votes, there have always been Republicans--Charlotte Reeves in 1997, Daryl Neely in 2001, Rick Whitlow in 2005--but I can't recall which of them actually had competition in their respective party primaries. Maybe someone with a better memory can fill us in on that.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-01-24T01:36:22-06:00
ID
98145
Comment

Yes it was crossover votes, rite after the election i looked in the C L and it had the voting breakdown, in ward 1,6,7 mostly white wards Frank E Melton outnumbered Harvey by 8000 votes if i can remember. In wards 3,4,5 black black wards Harvey Johnson Beat Frank. Tom Head and Casual observer get the facts rite stop trying to say the majority of Jacksonians voted for Frank if i can remember only 39,000 people voted. So i wish y'all will stop with the false rhetoric. And even Charles Tisdale and Mr stokes did want Harvey out so what both of those men to me are were bought out by Melton. I will say this Harvey Johnson lost because he would not Kiss the northeast Jackson conservative butt what frank has no problem doing, he harasses young black thugs which they like he swears to keep the blacks in line which they like. Harvey is a man who didn't bow down thats why they made the crime issue a big thing, what about crime now why isn't there people on Franks back. I hope Harvey runs again and get the students on JSU campus behind him, not these old black "leaders" of Jackson who champion Franks violating of peoples civil rights the same rights they marched for in the sixties.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2008-01-24T09:44:21-06:00
ID
98146
Comment

Back to the budget issues. It’s unfortunate that the Clarion Ledger and others continue to perpetuate Frank Melton’s chief excuse for anything his administration mucks up – that it is the last administration’s fault. If I recall correctly, the Johnson administration left the city with not only one of the best bond ratings it had every earned, but also $9 million dollars left in its reserve fund. Where is that reserve fund now? Perhaps it went to pay for bodyguards’ trips to the Caribbean? Or could it have gone to Chief-Anderson-turned-Emergency-Services-Director new salary or to some other crony? Who the heck really knows? And what about these grant dollars that were not spent in a timely manner? What about the $110 million in grant dollars that were bestowed upon the city in Johnson’s two terms – one of the largest (if not the largest) sums granted to Jackson under a two-term Mayor? Not only were the financial records of the city of Jackson scrutinized by auditors, but the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada consistently lauded Jackson’s budgeting practices, including its strategic financial plan under Johnson’s leadership. The cities financial practices and its outlook were also examined by the American Public Works Association before it bestowed its first public works accreditation in the state of Mississippi on the city of Jackson – under Johnson’s leadership. Shortly before that, the city’s financial management was examined by the Partners for a Livable Community before naming the city as one of the Most Livable Communities back in 2004. The Johnson administration made the traditional and necessary timely budget reports to the City Council to maintain financial responsibility and to involve council members in their constitutional responsibility as stewards of public dollars. To blame or misrepresent the city’s current financial woes on the last administration is downright dishonest and this one citizen of Jackson is sick of Melton shirking his responsibilities and playing the blame game!

Author
thabian
Date
2008-01-30T10:45:03-06:00
ID
98147
Comment

Great post, thabian. It appears that the C-L will print anything that the Mayor and his cronies utter without fact-checking any of it. That's irresponsible journalism at its worst, in my view, and I'm tired of it.

Author
Kacy
Date
2008-01-30T11:49:35-06:00

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