Already facing a dissolution referendum, operating on an emergency, partial-year budget, and struggling to determine proper staffing, the Township plunged into another crisis on Oct. 7, when its monthly bills list included a $17,640 bill for a classified ad seeking candidates for a job position not included in the budget, a budget not yet passed and still in flux.
Township Supervisor Gary Gaspard called the inclusion of the bill in the bills list a mistake, but he acknowledged writing the job description and did not deny the ad had been placed. "This is not a report you should have received yet," he said.
"We’re being asked to pay [this bill]," said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, "so it’s real."
Not only is the bill real, noted Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, but it is past due. She said the City has an obligation to pay bills on time to avoid late fees and interest as well as the resulting bad faith and possible damage to credit.
Mr. Gaspard asked that the matter be taken to executive session, insisting that he was working on "clarifying the bill. ... My plan is to bring that bill after we communicate with this vendor. Then we can bring this bill to you."
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said that the position advertised, "Township General Assistance Community Outreach Organizer," was not a position contained in the Township budget anyway. "You advertised for an unbudgeted position. [We have] a $17,000 bill advertising for a position we did not budget. ... I don’t know where to begin, so I think I am not speaking," she said.
At one point, Mr. Gaspard appeared to blame his staff for placing the ad, though he never clearly stated that he did not authorize the ad. Under questioning from Ald. Braithwaite, he admitted that he wrote the job description included in the ad. Still, he called the inclusion of the bill in the packet a "misunderstanding between me and my staff."
Both Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward and Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, bristled at any effort to blame staff. "This is your office and it’s your responsibility," said Ald. Fiske. I don’t want you to blame staff. I don’t feel comfortable going with executive session [on this]."
"There’s a lack of oversight [at the Township]," said Ald. Tendam. "I’m questioning a lot of decisions. ... [not just] the bill for $17,000. – "
"...640 dollars," said Supervisor Gaspard, finishing Ald. Tendam’s sentence.
" – for a position that pays $25,000 [per year]," continued Ald. Tendam. "What can we do to stop this?" He said he would be seeking guidance from the City’s legal counsel as to steps that could be taken to eliminate problems with Township spending and supervision.
Also included in the Township bills was an invoice from former Township Supervisor Pat Vance, who declined to run for re-election last year. Mr. Gaspard said that he rejected the Township budget he worked with Matt Swentkofske, the City’s Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator, to create. He said he enlisted the aid of Ms. Vance to help with a different budget, and that she had already found several errors. Ms. Vance earned $550 for consulting services.
Mr. Gaspard, who makes about $1,117 per month as Supervisor, said he plans to continue to engage Ms. Vance for the foreseeable future even though there is no contract in place. When pressed, he agreed to draft a consulting services contract. "I really need her help," he said. The Township, it seems, now has two supervisors.
Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson, seeking to distance her office from the overall Township, presented the Assessor’s budget even in the absence of the Township’s budget.