Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cooked books

I can safely say for sure that somebody cooked the City's books in the audited financial reports for fiscal years ending June 30, 2009, 2010 and 2012 to the tune of $5375.14 in lost money, total.

What does this mean?

It means that somebody cooked the books and I can provide the documents to prove it.

That's all it means.

What does a state audit cost?

A state audit is much less expensive then would be a private audit.

A state audit will cost the City of West Buechel $72 per hour, per auditor, using professional time billing standards. Among other things, this generally would mean $72 per hour regardless what the auditors are doing and it includes travel time. If you make a state auditor sit in your waiting hall, the auditor is sitting and waiting at a rate of $72 per hour.

Two auditors are twice as expensive as is for but one auditor. Two auditors clock in at $144 per hour.

Every time it is necessary for two auditors to come from Frankfort to West Buechel, it costs the city about $1000.00.

How much will it cost?

As long as it takes, at $72 per hour per auditor, not counting the Mayor's time, the Clerk's time and the Clerk-Treasurer's time.

Plus postage.

What purpose the state audit?

Is the ongoing state audit of West Buechel's finances for the purpose of vengeance and retribution upon those who have insulted your dignity or who did not give you a Christmas turkey? Or, is the purpose of the state audit to disclose systemic failures in City operations so as to correct the mistakes of the past?

That's your choice.

The auditors do it simply because that's what auditors do.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oops

I thought that Zuly was first appointed to the Ethics Board in March, 2011. If that had actually been the case, her March 11, 2014 re-appointment would have been solid.

When I double checked the City Council minutes to confirm the exact date of her appointment in March, 2011, I discovered it didn't happen in March at all.

Zuly was first appointed on January 4, 2011. This is a big problem. This means that her three-year term expired on January 4, 2014. The Mayor and the City Council had sixty days to fill the vacancy, or they lost the power to act.

Zuly's re-appointment on March 11, 2014 was too late. The sixty days had come and gone.

I was wrong about Zuly being the only member of the Ethics Board. It looks like nobody is.

Important the Ethics Board complies with the Ethcs Ordinance

The only thing my Ouija Board tells me is that Zuly is currently the sole member of West Buechel's Ethics Board.

A good first step in the right direction would be for Zuly submit a verified Financial Disclosure Statement for public inspection, as required by Ordinance 150, Section 12, all upon the officially approved form, if that form even exists.

That's a big IF.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My complaint about the trains

I don't like the fact that the trains are so quiet. I don't miss wailing air horns at 3 AM, but I am quite fond of the old clickety-clack. Welded rails are for sissies.

What next for West Buechel's Ethics Board?

The "what next" is simple.

Somebody needs to tell Zuly exactly what to do and exactly how to do it. This is absolutely a job for a genuine licensed dues-paying attorney-at-law. It's union rules.

In two or three months, I'm confident this will be all cleaned up properly without any bloodshed or fuss, but it is not a top priority right now. The system has been broken for such a long time without anything terrible happening, there is no rush.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Oh. One more thing.

The Ethics Board meeting and pizza party of March 12, 2014 did not satisfy those pesky KRS Open Meeting notice requirements either..

I'm pretty sure that three strikes make an out.

What's-his-names so-called appointment to the Ethics Board

I'm feeling a little sorry for thrashing Tom Howard's name around in connection with former Mayor Fowler's massive screw-up of West Buechel's Ethics Board. I'm sure Tom Howard is a great guy, but I've never met him. He is totally innocent of causing or contributing to the ethics train wreck of 2014.

I blame the lawyer.

There's another problem that popped out from ignorance of the law, and I blame the lawyer for that too. It's part of a lawyer's job to prevent clients from doing stupid illegal things.

"All vacancies shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term."

Remember that. It is a verbatim quote from Ordinance 150, Series 1994 creating the Ethics Board, among other things. It's the last sentence of Section 19(D).

"All vacancies shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term."

If an Ethics Board member who is appointed for a three year term ending March, 2014, is replaced, the substitute serves only, "the remainder of the unexpired term." The replacement's term also ends March, 2014.


Zuly Delgado, Charles (Chuck) Harlow and  Carolyn Wells were all appointed to the Ethics Board at the same time, in 2011, along with Pauline Harlow as Alternate Board Member. Alternates have only a one-year appointment, by Code, and the three-year terms for the primary Board Members each expired at the same time, in March, 2014.

When Carolyn Wells moved out of West Buechel and she was replace by Crystal Redmon, Crystal's term ended March, 2014. Mayor Fowler re-appointed Zuly, but she did not re-appoint Crystal. Mayor Fowler mistakenly believed that Chystal had a three-year term when, in fact and law, she had only the remainder of Carolyn Well's unexpired term that ended March, 2014..

 Crystal's participation and voting at the Ethics Board meeting of March 12, 2014 was clearly an honest mistake made equally by everyone there, but it was still a mistake. Crystal was not a member of the Ethics Board on March 12, 2014.

Except for the prayers and pizza, the March 12, 2014 Ethics Board meeting was a total nullity.
 

Wisdom for a New Age

If you don't like trains, don't live right next to the railroad tracks.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bad news for Tom Howard fans

The City's Ethic Board's file contains a memo dated May 1, 2013 that clearly indicates the terms in office of all three Ethics Board members ended in March, 2014.


When an Ethics Board vacancy continues unfilled for more than 60 days the Mayor loses the power to fill that vacancy. The duty shifts to the remaining members of the board.

The big problem is . . . you actually have to WAIT the whole 60 days.


The terms for the prior Ethics Board members didn't end until March, 2014. Zuly was appointed and confirmed for a new term early, before her first term in office had ended.

The other slots on the Ethics Board had not been empty for 60 days when the March 12, 2014, Board meeting happened. The attempt to name Tom Howard to the Board was an usurpation of the City Council's powers and prerogatives. If it is not void, it is surely voidable, if you know what I mean.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Housing units in West Buechel

There are 128 single-family residential houses in West Buechel. Seventy-seven (60%) are owner occupied. Fifty-one houses (40%) are rental units. If one were to add in the number of rental apartments in Fountain Square and Royal Arms, the percentages reverse, with 60% rental and 40% owner-occupied, city-wide.

About a dozen of the West Buechel rental houses are owned by residents of West Buechel.

Fifty-two of the rental houses are owned by citizens of Jefferson County, and about a dozen are owned from out-of-state addresses.

Why the Code Enforcement Board is broken

When it was enacted in 2000, City Ordinance 179 provided for a Code Enforcement Board consisting of "five (seven)" members. It is clear that a City Code Enforcement Board could have either five or seven members, or even as few as three members, but it is impossible to have a Board with five and seven members.

Section 2 of Ordinance 179 looks like this:
Here is Section 4
The solution to this problem is to amend Ordinance 179 and to be very definite about the number of members on the Code Enforcement Board. 3, 5 or 7. Take your pick.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Out-of-School Learning

If you are interested in Out-of-School Learning. (OSL) programs, I say there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Others have already done it and know how to make it work better. You can read about it here:

  1. The Wallace Foundation - www.wallacefoundation.org
  2. A Place to Grow and Learn - PDF
  3. Afterschool Alliance in Kentucky - www.afterschoolalliance.org
  4. School Age Quality Framework Project 2010-2011 - PDF

 Think bigger.

Who do I hate more, lawyers or CPAs?

It's a tough question. I was starting to feel sorry for the CPA who had to make sense of Mayor Fowler's mashugana budget process. All my sympathy evaporated when I awoke to the fact that $97,000 in new vehicle purchases were lumped in with the Police Department's annual operating budget and $30,000 was budgeted for the Buechel Festival under "Capital Outlays," along with $60,000 for Economic Development Payroll.

It just does not seem to be quite right . . . to me.


The concept of a sinking fund

A "sinking fund" is a fund a form of intentionally accumulating  a sufficient saved amount to replace a necessary physical asset by periodically setting aside money in advance of the need. For example, roofs. Sooner or later, every roof needs to be replaced. Even slate roofs generally don't last more than 125 years, in this climate. A sinking fund is a very British idea.

The American way is to wait until the need arises and then borrow the money and pay it off over time afterwards. Either way, you always have to pay and borrowing always costs more. Budgeting and funding a sinking fund requires much more discipline.

This is a story told by Gregory Bateson.
“New College, Oxford, is of rather late foundation, hence the name. It was probably founded around the late 16th century. It has, like other colleges, a great dining hall with big oak beams across the top. These might be eighteen inched square, and twenty feet long.

“Some five to ten years ago, so I am told, a busy entomologist went up into the roof of the dining hall with a penknife and poked at the beams, and found that they were full of beetles. This was reported to the College Council, who met in some dismay, because where would they get beams of that caliber nowadays?

“One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be on College lands some oak. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country. So they called the College Forester, who of course had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him about oaks.

“And he pulled his forelock and said, “Well sirs, we was wondering when you’d be askin’.”

“Upon further inquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for four hundred years. “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”

“A nice story. That’s the way to run a culture.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I got it totally wrong last November

I got it totally wrong last November when I wrote the following:

". . . . A lot of people are talking about West Buechel's semi-imaginary Economic Development Commission, thus giving it an undeserved semblance of reality, but nobody who knows anything about it is letting the cat out of the bag. Like, I'd like to know who was appointed to the Commission, what they were paid and where all the money went.. . . . "

West Buechel political cat fight or pussy riot?

West Buechel's Economic Development Commission is not "semi-imaginary."

West Buechel's Economic Development Commission is TOTALLY IMAGINARY.

Budget Basics: Honey! I found the grants!

On page 24 of the most recent independent audit report, dated December 29, 2014, Note 4.B.:
"Intergovernmental Revenue

Under the provisions of state law, the Commonwealth of Kentucky reimbursed the City for miscellaneous operating costs during the year June 30, 2014 that are recorded as operating grants and contributions in the government-wide financial statements and as intergovernmental revenue in the road fund in the fund financial statements."
What this means is that the City of West Buechel had $1,649,826 in very ordinary income for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2014, without an army of grant writers skinning cats in the T.E.M. building. With a better organized system, the City could have easily collected more income last year.

There is no good reason to fear the City will receive any less next year.

Budget Basics: Fees, fines and unicorns

The financial statements for the City of West Buechel show income from several sources in addition to the revenue streams from the five basic forms of City taxation. (Look here)

In the City's most recent independent audit, these additional income sources are named "Charges for Services" and "Operating Grants and Contributions;" and they are aggregated as "Program Revenues." It's hard to imagine names that could have been any worse or more confusing.
 


If you dig deep enough, it is possible to discover that the first line item, "Charges for Services" matchs up exactly, dollar for dollar, with sign permit fees, building permit fees, liquor license fees, vendor loading fees (whatever that is) along with fines and citations.



Liquor license fees and building permit fees have evaporated in recent years.

The sign permit fee numbers are a little bit whacky. Signs do not generally come and go from one year to the next quite as quickly, and randomly, as the fluctuating numbers might suggest. The ups and downs in the dollar amounts received by the City from this source are likely the result of lax collection and enforcement.

The "Vendor Loading Fee"? WTF is that?

 The Business License fee numbers are all over the map because most small home based businesses in West Buechel don't know they may owe it, and due to slack enforcement efforts by the City.

Fines and citations these days are mainly due to handicapped parking violators being cited by the City's excellent Code Enforcement Officers.

Next: What are these grants I keep hearing about?
 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

School is out

I heard that Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) may be closed all week.

This would be a good time for an all-day after school program at the Community Center for the children of hard working local parents. West Buechel has the resources, the workforce and the need for such a program. As Loy once so correctly stated it, "Use it or lose it."

These types of after school programs are trending upward in other parts of the world among those who truly give a shit about children and hard working parents. 

Busy bees in monster trucks

The driveway and parking lot at the Community Center are plowed, along with St. Francis Ave. itself. The $3,000 speed bumps (I was told) must be a real pain in the ass to plow.



 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Budget basics: The major food groups

The City of West Buechel receives the majority of its revenue from property taxes, employee payroll tax (Occupational Tax), business income taxes, bank franchise taxes and insurance tax. There is a minor revenue source from a business license tax that has been lumped in with the business income tax, but it is conceptually distinct.

It used to be there was a tax on gross business income, but that was changed to a tax on net business profits a few years back. The shift between the two taxes happened between 2009 and 2010.I have been told there were considerable tax refunds made because of the transition from gross to net business income taxation.

All of this information has been extracted from the City's annual audits for FY 2009 to FY 2014. Each of these annual audit reports are available online, except for one. They can be found at the Kentucky Bond Corporation's web site.

There are other City revenue sources in addition to these six basic types.

 The audit report for the year ending June 30, 2014 is the most recent reliable and readily available source of fiscal information. The City's income from these  basic taxes for 2013 - 2014 was $1,505,000. The City can reasonably expect to receive about $1,580,000 from these same taxes during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, and about 5% more the following year, if the creek don't rise.

  
These numbers present a few puzzles.

Like, why did insurance tax receipts double from 2011 to 2012?

Why did net business tax collections fall by half from 2010 to 2012?

Next: Other revenue sources.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Thanks to Toby and Liz

Many thanks to Council Members Toby Clark and Liz Bierbaum. At last Tuesday's monthly City Council Meeting, each voted against the preposterous idea that Council Members receive $100 for a day trip "out of town," whatever that means. If you like home cooking, you can take a sack lunch. If you like to eat out, you'd pay for lunch out of your own pocket anyway.

Overnight out of town trips are a different story when you have to eat at restaurants for every meal.

Liz Bierbaum was especially eloquent in researching and explaining how the proposed Ordinance lacked most signs of intelligent life.

Alas, the first major legislative spending accomplishment of 2015 passed anyway.

Too bad they didn't give the first thought or mention how this new allocation of taxpayer money fit into the City's budget.

What budget? There is no stinking budget.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

Remember, it's way easier to spend more on chocolate than it is to actually care more.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A vison of boots on the ground




The City of West Buechel owns the old T.E.M. Building at the end of Bashford Avenue. It is currently not being used for any purpose other than storage. The West Buechel Police Department should be relocated from the second floor of City Hall. Office space in City Hall is in very short supply. Now, the Mayor's office is the approximate size of a large shoe box.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Financial DIsclosure Statements

West Buechel's Code of Ethical Conduct, City Ordinance 150, Series 1994, requires each elected City official and each member of the Ethics Board to file an annual Financial Disclosure Statement no later than January 31. Section 17 provides for a civil penalty up to twenty-five dollars per day for noncompliance, in appropriate circumstances.

Section 15(A) specifically provides that these statements of financial interests are "public documents available for public inspection immediately upon filing.

I want to see them.

Don't count your chickens yet, boys

After the West Buechel City Council voted themselves a fat travel per diam on Tuesday, several Council Members took a road trip on Thursday to Frankfort, ostensibly on City business. The one hundred dollars a day per diam for Council Members (as opposed to the fifty dollar per diam paid to lesser humans) is pretty good money, if you have nothing else to do with your time any better than just  going along for the ride.

Remember, City Ordinances don't take effect until they are published, except in the event of a declared emergency, and neither has happened.

Don't even bother asking for the $100.

If you get it, you'll just have to give it back.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cheating in West Buechel

First, go wash your mind out with soap.

I write "cheating" and you think "sex."

LOL, but you are forgiven. It takes a very bizarre sequence of coincidences for any sane person to be thinking about tax cheats at 6 AM, but so it is.

This is the short version.

There are small home-based businesses and there are small businesses where the business has an authentic business location apart from the business owner's residence. The difference is between residential property and commercial property. One hundred years ago combined function real estate was common where, for example, the shop owner lived on the second floor above the shop. It's not that way so much any more.

Kentucky business registration information is online and accessible at 6 AM, and I had an itch to look at something or another. What I found wasn't what I was looking for.

If you check out the street addresses freely available from the Kentucky Secretary of State's web site it is possible to see that someone who has a commercial location inside West Buechel and who resides outside West Buechel is pretending otherwise.

The State's corporation online record shows  the reverse.

All in the world who take the paperwork at face value do not suspect that a commercial business located in West Buechel has set up official appearances to facilitate fraudulently shaving off a point from its annual tax bill by pretending to be outside West Buechel, not paying West Buechel's Net Profits Tax now, and by not paying West Buechel's other incomprehensible business tax from before.

So, that's the type of shit I think about first thing in the morning. Maybe it's just the time of year that I'm tuning into this whole "tax cheat" vibe.

Have a nice day. 




Thursday, February 5, 2015

Grapevine reader top ten count

Thanks to Google Analytics (free), webmasters can know where their web readers are located, by city. There are other methods to keep count of RSS readers and email subscriptions.

For the period from January 6, 2015 through February 4, this blog . . . The Grapevine . . .  has had browser sessions from the following top ten cities.

When I started this blog late last year, I had no idea that anyone would read it.

Los Angeles?

This crap never ends

It looks like the former Mayor's attorney of choice, Gen-NON, left the Ordinance Book of the City of Bedford, Kentucky laying around the City of West Buechel's Clerk's Office.

Bedford, Kentucky, is a 6th-class city and it is located in Trimble County. Trimble County is just east of Oldham County. Ms. Hensley practices law in LaGrange, which is in Oldham County, just east of Jefferson County.

Genon Hensley is not now and possibly never was a Jefferson Country lawyer, but she did apparently have more than one Kentucky municipality as a client . . . the City of Bedford. Thus . . . I assume, the City of Bedford Ordinance Book seen in West Buechel's Clerk's Office was probably left there unintentionally by Ms. Hensley.

This wrong-city ordinance book ought to be returned to lawyer Hensley, at her own expense.

So, if you want to look at West Buechel's Ordinance Book, you might think about "page two," as Paul Harvey used to say. The other side of the story, in other words.

You might be looking at the wrong damn ordinance book and not know it.

The moral of this story is: DIG DEEPER!


Don't blame me. It's the Mayor's fault.

That's my story. Learn to live with it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lost Ordinances - detail

Excluding the City Ordinances that were clearly repealed, the Ordinances underlined in red are currently missing from Ordinance Book 1 - 88, without explanation.

Who needs this shit??? . . . I QUIT!!

Not really. This is way too much fun for me.

I will, however, quit scanning City Ordinance Books until after I have a chat with the proper authorities, whoever they are.

Besides, nobody ever hired me.

The possible crime

KRS § 519.060 Tampering with public records.

(1) A person is guilty of tampering with public records when:

(a) He knowingly makes a false entry in or falsely alters any public record; or

(b) Knowing he lacks the authority to do so, he intentionally destroys, mutilates, conceals, removes, or otherwise impairs the availability of any public records; or

(c) Knowing he lacks the authority to retain it, he intentionally refuses to deliver up a public record in his possession upon proper request of a public servant lawfully entitled to receive such record for examination or other purposes.

(2) Tampering with public records is a Class D felony.

Effective:July 14, 1992
History: Amended 1992 Ky. Acts ch.16, sec.1, effective July 14, 1992
Created 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, sec. 168, effective January 1, 1975

 Don't get excited!!

There's still a good chance, in my opinion, that all can be explained as pure and innocent incompetence.

West Buechel's Ordinance books are screwed up too

I started scanning all the City Ordinances yesterday morning, beginning with City Ordinance No. 1 from 1955. I got through the first Ordinance Book, that supposedly contained City Ordinances 1 to 88.

I began looking at the scanned Ordinances last night after supper.

In fact, this first Ordinance Book is missing Ordinances 18, 20, 23, 24, 28, 29,45, 47 - 61 and 80 . . . without any explanation.

"Sloppy record keeping" is simply not a strong enough description to account for these sad facts.

I'll probably have to call the Kentucky State Police and file a report. West Buechel's City Hall is starting to look like a crime scene.




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Minimum Wage - A simple logic and a simple proof

The office of Mayor in the City of West Buechel, Kentucky, is not a full time job.

The Mayor of West Buechel is paid $1,200 per month, or $14,400 per year.

If the mayor's job were full-time, his or her hourly pay would be less than federal and Kentucky minimum wage. It would be illegal.

Therefore, the mayor's job is not full-time.






Monday, February 2, 2015

Personnel Handbook web optimized online

This is the link

The original PDF file is optimized for print at 157 Mb in file size. The PDF linked to above is optimized for web viewing with a 40 Mb file size. This is still way too big for my taste, but it is better than nothing.

The big PDF will be on the City Clerk's office computer.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Joe Jager has passed

West Buechel's good friend Joe Jager has passed.

Mayor Rick Richards has ordered the flag at City Hall to be lowered to half-staff in his honor and to recognize his many contributions for the good of all.

I recently saw a copy of a letter addressed to Joe from President George W. Bush, on official Presidential stationery, inviting Joe to Washington to receive a White House recognition for his life and work.

The good that Joe has offered lives on in West Buechel, and beyond..

West Buechel's Ethics Board died and nobody noticed.

City Ordinance 179, Series 2000, establishing a Code Enforcement Board was clearly copied from a model ordinance. The model for this ordinance possibly was provided by Kentucky League of Cities, but I don't know for sure.

The model ordinance had two different provisions for the number of Board Members. One alternative provided for five Board Members. Another option allowed for seven Board Members. West Buechel's City Council passed the Ordinance with both options. West Buechel's Code Enforcement Board has nearly a half dozen Board Members, more or less. It's either 5 or 7, take your pick, but let's just settle on 6 because . . .  what the hell, why not?

To make matter worse, prior administrations have combined the Code Enforcement Board and the Ethics Board in actual practice, with overlapping memberships.

City Ordinance 150, Series 1994, established the Ethics Board and it clearly prohibited Ethics Board Members from holding any other City office, paid or unpaid ( Section 19). It was a violation of Ordinance 150 for any Ethics Board Member to also serve on the Code Enforcement Board.

These are goofy mistakes, and EVERYONE went along with it. Nobody screamed bloody murder.

The West Buechel Ethics Board has not existed or functioned legally for decades.

West Buechel's Ethics Board doe not exist now. You have to go back to the 20th Century to find a valid Ethics Board. The Ethics Board is DEAD.

However, it can be resurrected and it probably should be. The previously prevailing political and governmental practices in West Buechel need a serious dose of double-strength ethics, in my opinion. The neighborhood population of feral political hacks needs to be spayed and neutered.

Give them rabies shots too.








West Buechel's Personnel Handbook contents

This is the Content listing from West Buechel's Personnel Policy and Procedure Handbook, extracted from the PDF scans.


Espionage in West Buechel

Yawn.

Grab the NoDoz.