To the Editor:
The recent indisputable findings by private residents showcasing the Warwick Fire Department's organized and secret abuse of tax payer dollars now has the same residents wondering how such abuse could proliferate, particularly when the city is supposed to have safeguards in place to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening.
Under the Warwick City Charter, we have a separated finance department with a very well compensated and educated CPA, and assistants to safeguard taxpayers’ monies and to insure the correct and equitable use of these monies. The following are the responsibilities of the Finance Department as taken directly from the city charter:
Finance Department Major Responsibilities:
To oversee departments of MIS, Treasury, Tax Collectors, Assessors, and Purchasing; to maintain financial controls for all city departments; and to submit a complete financial statement at the end of each fiscal year.
To prepare the City's operating budget; to monitor, analyze and project all expenses and revenue during the year in accordance with budget appropriations; to supervise the disbursement of all monies; to maintain the general accounting system and exercise financial controls; to process and oversee insurance claims; to provide interpretation of financial policies, governmental legislation and accounting principles; to internally audit all grants received by the city; and to invest city funds.
Let’s take a moment to dissect this document and apply it to the day-to-day functions of the Warwick Fire Department. After extensive conversations both in public and in private, I have been educated by the highly trained and well-compensated (former) finance director of the city. I have come to understand that the Warwick Fire Department tabulates and conducts their own accounting of sick time, vacation, retirement payouts, payroll, etc., all of which is performed in house, by a clerk, with no oversight, then submitted to the payroll department. At no time has any type of oversight been initiated, even when the department has dramatically overspent its budget each year since the beginning of time.
Let’s scrutinize portions of the language of the responsibility of the finance department that is defined under the city charter.
1. To maintain financial controls for all city departments.
What controls have been in place in the Warwick Fire Department that allowed them to enter into a secret side deal of unused sick time, in order to prostitute the official language of the contract that was entered into on behalf of the taxpayers, to selfishly obtain monies under false pretenses?
ANSWER – NONE
2. To monitor, analyze and project all expenses.
What monitoring has been performed at the fire department, (and by who) to insure that the million-dollar line item of unused sick pay was being paid out in accordance with the current legal ratified collective bargaining agreement?
ANSWER – NONE and NO ONE
3. To supervise the disbursement of all monies.
What type of supervision was performed when wrongful payments were made for a period of over 5 years?
ANSWER – NONE
4. To maintain the general accounting system and exercise financial controls.
Is there a general accounting system within the Warwick Fire Department? If you consider that the 22 million dollar per year department does its payroll accounting with pencil and paper, loaded with eraser markings and white out as “a general accounting system,” you are kidding yourself. In this day and age, on any given summer day you can pass by a child’s lemonade stand and review a general accounting system that is decades more technical and accurate than that of the Warwick Fire Department. Furthermore, no accounting system allows for an employer to roll the line item of sick time into the same line item as salaries, unless of course you are knowingly and willfully disguising expenditures in an attempt to masquerade monies that will eventually be obtained under false pretenses.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what was (is) happening within the Warwick Fire Department. The administration, both past and present should all hang their heads in shame that this has been happening under their noses and on their watch. No one is taking responsibility for bogus fiscal notes, creative math, lack of controls, overspending, and in my opinion coordinated theft and collusion. What other conclusion can one come to now knowing that we had secret side deals?
Personally, I think that prior to voting on or ratifying any contract or expenditure, the budgets should be forwarded to the 5th graders in this city so they can scrutinize the basic math and find the hundreds of thousands of hidden dollars that are absconded from them every year. Rest assured their accounting system of the funds in their piggy banks is of much higher caliber than what is currently being exercised by that of the WFD.
Taxpayer and proficient in 5th grade math