Anyone who has followed my posts over the last 5 years, knows I am critical of the local news coverage by the Record Gazette and The Press Enterprise. I feel too often their reporters fail to ask the tough questions and are too willing to accept what they are told by the city and school administrations. Not to get too over dramatic but since the beginning of our history as a nation, citizens have depended on the free press to provide the truth and transparency we need to keep our governments and elected officials focused on doing what's best for the people.
More often I have given the Record Gazette a pass over the Press Enterprise because I realize the RG has to depend on ad revenue from Beaumont's local business leaders who are often financially responsible for getting our officials elected. I've been appreciative that, over the years, the Record Gazette has published most of my letters to the editor. There's even one from me in this week's edition about the Beaumont Economic Development Committee I am trying to promote. It may be the last one I submit but if not, it is most likely the last one published after the editor reads this post.
After reading the story last week summarizing what happened at the City Council meeting I was frustrated. Even though I saw the RG's reporter sitting across the aisle from me, her article indicated to me we watched two different meetings. In my opinion, the article this week "Beaumont sends past due financial reports to state" was much more disappointing. I believe it showed a lack of understanding the issue and a failure by the reporter to do her homework.
The State Controller's office sent the City of Beaumont a letter telling them they were past due on financial reports for the 2010-2011 fiscal year that were due 90-110 days after the fiscal year ended, June 30, 2011. The SCO's Press release explained the delinquent reports were concerning the City's payroll numbers and were a new reporting requirement as a result of the City of Bell scandal. They went on to explain there had been a grace period but the city could be fined and audited if the reports weren't submitted by 12/31/2013.
This had nothing to do with the 2010-2011 audit or the 2011-2012 audit that was approved at the last council meeting. And, since the reports in question were due around October 10, of 2011, they are now more than two years delinquent.
In today's Record Gazette the paper reported the following:
State Controller John Chiang's letter to the city stated the city "had failed to file financial reports that were due more than a year ago. - This is factual but the reports were actually more than two years over due.
Bill Aylward, Director of Finance for the city (and the Assistant City Manager earning more than $200,000 a year) told the Record Gazette the audit report was submitted to the state on Oct 22. -The reporter failed to mention which audit report and didn't clarify Oct 22 of what year. I believe Aylward had to be talking about the 2011-2012 audit and October 22, 2013. Regardless if it is the audit they submitted three days ago, or the 2010-2011 they submitted last year, neither are the reports the SCO is demanding.
The article goes on to report that City Manager Alan Kapanicas (probably from his vacation cruise - not on the run from the law as has been suggested) said in an email this week :
Beaumont always files its audits electronically and the missing 2010-11 audit may have been submitted and lost in the file transfer process or could have simply been forgotten. When the issue was brought to our attention we immediately requested a new disk from the state so that we may submit it as soon as possible.
Really? If Mr. Kapanicas wrote this, he either shows he has no idea what's happening or he is intentionally misleading the press. Also, the reporter should have known this response had absolutely nothing to do with the reports the SCO is concerned about. This is the second time in a week that I've read in the local press that Mr. Kapanicas was caught by surprise by the letter from the SCO. The SCO's press release clearly indicated the recipients of their letters had been previously notified of the delinquency.
The article closes with the following "On Oct 15, the city council unanimously approved the financial audit dated June 30,2012. Beaumont's general fund had a surplus of just under $283,000."- There was no mention of the $21.5 million questionable ledger entry or the $2 million borrowed from the 2012-2013 budget and where the general fund and the solvency of the City would be without the City Manager's financial strategy, blessed by our City Council.
Whatever happened to asking follow up questions? With reporting like this, we have no hope of raising awareness in our fellow citizens about the true state of our city.