"Poor checks-and-balances can sap communities of their fiscal health"

The agenda for next Tuesday’s Beaumont City Council is out and they have ignored, or denied, my requests for an agenda item to discuss my request for an independent audit of the City’s internal audit controls. I made a public request for an agenda item to discuss an internal control audit on the Banning-Beaumont Patch, in the Record Gazette’s Letters to the Editor, and in a personal email to each council member and the city manager, Mr. Kapanicas.

In order for an item to be added to the agenda, it must be supported by at least two members. This means at least 4 of the 5 council members aren’t interested in even considering the idea there may be ways to improve the City’s established checks and balances.

I was not asking the council to vote on my request; I was just asking them to consider the public’s opinion and give citizens an opportunity to provide input. If they had considered voting on this request, there was nothing stopping them from voting it down; they didn’t even want to talk about it. I am tired of hearing our council claim to be transparent when they are unwilling to even discuss the constitutionally required checks and balances. Actually, it would be the City’s Charter that would provide the guidelines to checks and balances, but they refuse to even discuss their own policies.

A new bill, AB 1248, was signed into law by Governor Brown on Wednesday. The law “requires the state controller to sit down with local agencies in order to develop control measures and auditing practices in an effort to prevent accounting errors and fraud”. Both our State Assemblyman Brian Nestande and State Senator Bill Emerson voted in favor of AB 1248. Neither of the two will even respond to requests from Beaumont citizens to hear our concerns about the financial management of our city.

In an article published today, August 30, on www.publicceo.com about the new law our State Controller was quoted as saying “For many local governments currently battling insolvency, the seeds of their financial distress were sown long before the Great Recession…Poor checks-and-balances can sap communities of their fiscal health to the point where a downturn in the economy can be catastrophic.” Is he talking about Beaumont? No, he was probably referring to Stockton.

The www.publicceo.com article goes on to report:

Chiang recently audited the City of Stockton and concluded that city leaders ignored plenty of warning signs that could have helped prevent the city from declaring bankruptcy. Until Detroit filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, Stockton was the largest city in the United States to have sought protection for their financial insolvency.

“Recent audits produced by my office demonstrate how weak internal controls can set-up local governments for failure, in such forms as bankruptcy, default, and corruption.” Chiang said. “This bill calls for the State and local governments to work together to develop stronger fiscal management practices aimed at protecting communities against self-dealing, misuse of taxpayer monies and other abuses of public trust.”

Click here for a link to the full article

I’m not saying Beaumont is headed for bankruptcy and I’m not accusing anyone of committing fraud but if the Governor, State Controller, our State Assemblyman and State Senator are concerned it might be a problem, wouldn’t you think our City Council members, who promote transparency, would be open to a public discussion? I would think at least two of them would see the benefit of just re-assuring us they have employed good checks and balances and Beaumont isn’t headed for trouble. This begs the question, what do they have to hide?