Today, top-level city staff in East Ridge were recklessly accused of wrong-doing in a Times Free Press editorial opinion piece (Feb. 2) by Drew Johnson without the true facts.
The complete records, audits, back-up documentation and budget prove we operated within policy guidelines and the law. For instance, purchases such as a Coke and candy bar were while on legitimate city business and were in place of full meals or more per diem to which the employee would have otherwise been entitled, saving the city money. This is all documented and proven.
All hiring practices are within guidelines and no personnel policy or procedures were violated. This can be proven.
Community Center and McBrien Elementary expenditures are appropriate and for official city purposes. This can be proven.
Occasional directors, chiefs working lunch meetings with legal counsel and others are clearly justifiable and for official purposes and within credit card use policy guidelines.
The city manager is a legal resident of the city of ER pursuant to the terms of his contract. He pays rent in ER for an apartment just like 47% of other residents, votes in ER and has a drivers license with his residence listed by the state as East Ridge. His family resides in Cleveland pending the sale of his residence and his daughter finishing high school. He regularly attends church in Cleveland. By contract, he may drive his city provided vehicle for limited personal use. The council is fully informed and aware of the city managers family residence and church situation. There is no contractual requirement for his family to live in East Ridge. The city manager does reside in ER and has been for nearly two years with the council's support.
As far as the city code being on the MTAS website, the Administration and Finance Department made the decision not to pay MTAS $200 to put a code up that was outdated with wrong information by over a decade. The new codification process was underway and it saved the city money by not paying the $200 until the updated version was ready in a few months. There was no conspiracy by staff to keep anyone in the dark about any code. All codes have been followed to every reasonable possibility by every city employee to our knowledge.
Bottom line: city staff is doing the job appropriately and within policy, procedure and the law. Since (I) became city manager, the city has gone from a $600,000 General Fund deficit to a $917,000 General Fund surplus and spent 15 percent less than budgeted to spend last year, a testament to good management. The city is in the best overall financial condition it has been in for the last 20 years.
City staff looks forward to addressing each false reckless allegation made by Drew Johnson, line by line and has documentation, receipts, audits, budgets, policy guidelines and other documentation to prove we do things right.