Thursday, January 26, 2012

TARTA excuses don't ring true, Gee still to blame

By now, most people are aware that the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, TARTA, has "unauditable" books for 2010. I've called for all the politically appointed board members to be replaced (except the new Sylvania Township rep).

TARTA General Manager James Gee, who should have been replaced after illegally spending taxpayer monies on the levy campaign, has presented several excuses for the "unauditable" finding.

These poorly-presented excuses do not ring true - and certainly don't account for the finding from the State Auditor.

His first response was that the missing audit items were "minor." However, in looking at the list of items the State Auditor ordered him to produce, you can see they are clearly NOT minor.

Gee's other excuse is that they installed a new computer system. Having installed a major computer system as Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court, as well as overseen the transition of Lucas County to a new ERP system, I know such a switch should never result in "unauditable" books.

The Clerk's computer system wasn't just my office, but was part of a complete replacement of individual systems in the Toledo Police Department, Clerk of Court, Toledo Municipal Judges, Lucas County Sheriff's Department Correction Center (county jail) and CCNO - the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio. Not only did we replace each of the systems in these agencies, we merged them into a single overall system that shared data and information across jurisdictions, resulting in the elimination of duplicate entries, etc. Each of these systems kept records for the agencies as well as financial data, including much more complicated financial records that what TARTA has to deal with.

None of the agencies participating the criminal justice computer replacement were unable to complete their audits like TARTA.

If, as Gee claims, the switch to a new computer system is to blame, then it is his administration and oversight, as well as his lack of planning and anticipation of needs, etc... that caused the State Auditor finding - not the computer system itself.

It is his leadership of the transition and/or the staff that is fully at fault for not adequately handling the installation of a new computer system in a manner than ensures the accountability of the agency to the public for the funds they are receiving and expending.

So even if the "unauditable" finding is partially due to a new computer system, he is still the one to blame for not making sure the agency could function throughout the transition.

His other excuse was that there was new staff in the financial office.

He obviously hired the staff, so why did he hire people who can't produce such basics audit items as a list of contracts - new computer system or not? And why would he hire new staff as he was embarking upon a computer transition?

Even if 'new staff' is partially to blame for the "unauditable" finding, it is still his responsibility as General Manager to hire the right people and ensure they are properly trained so that an audit can be completed.

Again, he is to blame.

His last excuse is that he had trouble scheduling meetings with the private accounting firm, Clifton Gunderson, who was hired to do the audit.

Talk about lame. In a full year, with today's technology, you couldn't get a meeting date???

This certainly doesn't sound valid. Clifton Gunderson is a well-respected national firm that has wide experience in doing public audits. From their website:

Clifton Gunderson is registered with the Public Company Auditor Oversight Board (PCAOB) and is a member of the Audit Quality Center of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), as well as the Government Audit Quality Center and the Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center. Our accounting and auditing quality control systems have earned unmodified reports in all of our peer reviews and a clean report from the PCAOB.

Does this really sound like a company that can't schedule a meeting?

Or is it more likely that TARTA - and James Gee, personally - are to blame for his 'lack of meeting' excuse? Besides, it doesn't take a personal meeting to produce the missing documents so an audit can be completed.

So, no matter what lame excuse Gee has presented, he is the General Manager and it was/is his responsibility to have the audit completed. He can try to blame others, but the real fault is in his lack of leadership and oversight.

He needs to go.



* "unauditable" is not an actual word, but is the term the Auditor of State has used for a number of years now to indicate the status of public agencies whose books cannot be audited, for one reason or another.

4 comments:

aquitana said...

Right on...

Maggie Thurber said...

The following was sent to me via email as the author, Phil Caron, was unable to post it as a comment. It is a long comment, so this is part one.

I was appointed by Perrysburg Council a number of years ago to be the Board Representative for TARTA for the 3 year term. This was against the wishes of some council members who were concerned my motive was to investigate and see if we should be departing TARTA. I helped not only educate our community but other communities about all the divisive self-serving mandates built into the ORC that favored Toledo and ignored the best interest of most sub divisions.
Early on a PAC of sorts was developed between Toledo, Sylvania, Ottawa Hills, and Maumee to totally control the direction of TARTA. Those cities made sure they had the key committees controlled with their people and their votes (Toledo always having one more vote than the sub divisions regardless of any additions). The appointments were tightly controlled and in many cases many from the controlling divisions were handpicked to served.
Until my arrival there were few votes against the direction of the controlling dictators. I am sure if you attended a meeting today, the members get their packets the day of the meeting with the information needed to vote. Richard Ruddell and then his handpicked replacement James Gee are ruled by the controlling board members.
They always played loose and free with practices and awards of contracts to service TARTA. The same marketing firm has been servicing TARTA for years and from my knowledge not put out for competitive bids – just to name a few. Any levy was supported by about 90%+ of the suppliers contributions and a payroll deduction plan from the employees to donate towards the levies. This really seemed to not be legal and in my mind put undo pressure on employees for promotions etc.
After my 3 years the then Mayor of Perrysburg Jody Holbrook would not renew my appointment due to suspected political pressure from TARTA – this after I lead a group from Perrysburg to get TARTA to try Call-A-Ride – their only success in 34 years. As time passed and more people got educated in the sub divisions per my investigations – the votes continued to swing against TARTA until the last two levies when all prescient’s in Perrysburg and Rossford voted NO to the levy but due to their aggregate vote it passed.
The main issue with all the political pressure and outside out crys of Sylvania Township and Perrysburg is the amount of money Sylvania Township and Perrysburg pay per citizen. Perrysburg pays about $85 per citizen, Sylvania Township about $75 per citizen and Toledo about $38 per citizen. Sylvania Township and Perrysburg represent 44% of the overall levy income for the 2 ½ mills. I question how they got a 10 year levies approved but that is again part of the planning to keep the sub divisions from a focus on the cost.

Maggie Thurber said...

Part two of Phil Caron's comment:

The current investigation on sloppy record keeping is the same management technique being used to not keep accurate records on stop-by-stop ridership – another major issue James Gee ignores to hide the truth. He has been forced to take some steps to improve the fastest growing element of TARTA in TARPS but has a long way to go to meet the future needs of TARPS. It is evident he is not a leader, he only represents the controlling sub divisions, he is not accountable and has a record of having zero capability to attract new sub divisions in over 30 years.
Why should an entity be protected who only caters to Toledo, has made special provisions to take over Toledo School bussing, who has no focus on his main mission Public transportation for those less fortunate, and the waste of money for the Walleye and Mud Hen bussing not counting the stupid ugly bus paint jobs. What public transportation benefit are stupid looking busses. Based upon all the violations, lack of innovation, ignoring of the sub divisions, drastic times require drastic action. Either the State or Federal Government take-over (as they do when school districts fail) or some agency put out an RFQ to take over by private enterprise, have everyone re-apply for their jobs except the drivers and their support group, and have each sub division appoint new members.
Some of the board members have been on the board since the wheel was invented. I will go through the list and provide you with the names of said board members. Now that the Republicans have taken over Columbus is the time for sub divisions to make their move as previous efforts would never have been possible with the Democrats. Randy Gardner has been a stellar voice for those being abused by TARTA with their iron ORC dictates. The powerful under ground force (not a majority interest) of the NW Ohio Union under tow will continue to block any efforts and continue their campaign of shame that is not legitimate. Nothing in the Perrysburg or Sylvania Charter says that public transportation is a core service.
I have asked the Perrysburg Council to pretend it is 34 years ago with the then Perrysburg Council idiots agreed to the ORC terms that made sub divisions be at the mercy of TARTA and subsidize TARTA without votes that counted. With what they know today – would they vote and agree to the dictatorship we currently live under with TARTA. Other cities like Springfield and Oregon and doing just fine transporting their citizens to meet their transportation needs and NO ONE is begging to join TARTA – HELLO!

Maggie Thurber said...

Note: Phil's comments were posted exactly as provided - no editing was done.

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