Mayor: Niles close to getting out from under fiscal emergency
Latest state auditor’s report includes last finding city council needs to address
By Jordan Cohen
Mayor Steven Mientkiewicz said the city is close to enacting legislation critical to its release from fiscal emergency.
The issue: approving legislation authorizing a request for proposals from independent firms to develop a complete inventory of all city capital assets.
A state audit of city finances in 2017 but released Tuesday found Niles in noncompliance with state law for failing to maintain manual or computerized records of all city assets resulting in “an inability to manage and monitor” them in an effective manner. The issue has been ongoing.
“No such records exist” other than a partial list, according to the auditors, who call the absence of the comprehensive inventory “a material weakness” they are obligated to report under government accounting standards.
Other issues cited by the auditors include failure to update capital asset listings for the water, sewer and light departments since 1996; no accounting system to identify capital asset purchases and deletions; and no identification system such as inventory tags for capitalized items.
Council has been well aware of these for years, according to Mientkiewicz, who was 2nd Ward councilman until last week when he was selected mayor by Democratic precinct committee members over 10 rival candidates.
“Next week, legislation will cross council’s desk to rectify this issue,” Mientkiewicz told The Vindicator. “It’s the last finding we need to address before we can apply for release from fiscal emergency.”
State Auditor Dave Yost placed Niles in fiscal emergency in October 2014 due to “substantial deficit fund balances.” Since that time, a Financial Planning and Supervision Commission reviews the status of city finances as required by Ohio law.
The mayor said he did not know how much the city will have to spend to get into compliance and eventually out of fiscal emergency.
“I think it’s going to be expensive,” he said.
The audit contained some good news for the city, describing its “overall financial position improved.”
It notes that last year, revenues for the general fund exceeded estimates “due in large part to higher income taxes and rental revenues collected than expected” along with lower expenditures than appropriations “due to management’s effort to control costs and ensure economic stability.”
Mientkiewicz had an active day besides the audit. He fired Ed Stredney, who had been serving as service director under the mayor’s predecessor, Thomas Scarnecchia.
“As of [Tuesday], Mr. Stredney has been relieved of his duties,” the mayor said, declining to explain his reasons. “Effective [today], Anthony Flarey will assume that role.”
Flarey is a former plant manager and superintendent of human relations at Delphi Electric in Warren, where he worked for 35 years. He said he has been retired for 10 years and has never worked for a city government.
Flarey said he is looking forward to his responsibilities. “I’m a young 72,” he said.
The Vindicator asked Mientkiewicz about the fate of George Kaniclides, city safety director, who was one of the 10 mayoral candidates the new mayor defeated.
“As of now, he is safety director,” Mientkiewicz said without offering any additional information.