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GIRARD Lawmaker says council is getting financial data



Published: Fri, May 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Residents still don't realize the depth of the city's problems, the councilwoman said.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- City council is getting the financial information it needs to do its job, the chairman of the finance committee says.

"I feel confident we're getting the whole picture," Kathleen O'Connell Sauline-D-2nd, said Thursday.

Her comments come on the heels of the release of state audit reports covering 1999 and 2000.

State Auditor Jim Petro issued 26 findings against the city for its handling of money. There were no findings calling for the recovery of money.

City officials, including lawmakers, have had the audits for about three weeks and have discussed it with the state auditor's office. The reports were released publicly Thursday morning.

In several instances, the audits point to individual city funds that were permitted to go into the red and financial transactions' not being provided to council by Sam Lamancusa, city auditor at the time.

'On the right track'

Sauline said she believes Sam Zirafi, who replaced Lamancusa, is "on the right track" by keeping city officials aware of balances.

"Open government is what really works," Sauline asserted. "It calls for us to be more diligent."

Despite keeping a closer eye on the money, she noted, it appears overtime will go over budget.

Sauline said people generally don't understand the extent of the financial problems. The city has been under a state-imposed fiscal emergency since August.

Deficit

The audit indicates the general fund deficit is really at $2.2 million instead of $1.7 million because money was taken from the wrong funds to pay for projects.

Sauline said that does not increase the overall debt and city officials were told by the state auditor's office that other expenses can be moved to other funds to reduce the impact on the general fund.

Joseph Christopher, D-at-large, said he takes exception to some findings because he doesn't think the general fund should be increased.

"I'm interested in reducing the general fund deficit," said Christopher, a former mayor, adding he wants to see the city back on sound financial footing.

Charles Doran, D-4th, said the findings are "correctable."

"I think it's a lot better than it was," Doran said of council's awareness, giving credit to Sauline and her finance committee.

Criticism

Doran was critical of the state auditor for taking so long to perform the audits and waiting until after the election to make them public.

"We're in 2002," Doran said, adding that 1999 and 2000 "have come and gone."

Petro has a policy of not releasing audits in the last two weeks before an election. Doran said their release wouldn't have had any political impact because no elected offices were on the ballot in Tuesday's primary election.

yovich@vindy.com




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