Issues in Niles treasurer’s office concern commission
By Jordan Cohen
The city treasurer’s office, down to one employee in the wake of the resignation of Janet Rizer-Jones, is unable to fulfill its primary function – reconciling financial statements with bank records, a problem that may continue for several months until one or more employees learn the procedure.
Fiscal supervisors told the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission this week the only employee trained in reconciliation transferred to another department, leaving one untrained worker – the only employee in the office.
Commission chairman Quentin Potter said reconciliation is “a fundamental item” and places the city at risk of noncompliance with its fiscal-emergency recovery plan.
“This is a critical function that has to be taken care of,” Potter said. “We can’t have discussions about release until this happens.”
Niles has been in state-declared fiscal emergency since October 2014.
Fiscal supervisors Tim Lintner and Nita Hendryx told the commission January records have not been reconciled, and the problem is likely to continue for several months even after training is completed. Making matters worse for the city is that there were no provisions made for cross-training so an employee in another department could have stepped in.
“If you had redundancy, this wouldn’t happen,” Potter said.
Several other employees in the treasurer’s office were transferred when the city abolished its income-tax division and turned collections over to the Regional Income Tax Agency.
The supervisors indicated council has to fund the training. John Davis, commission member, noted the city should be able to afford it when compared with what it is paying the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber this year to attract businesses to Niles.
“If you can afford to spend $35,000 on the chamber, then you can afford $1,500 for one-day training,” Davis said.
Mayor Thomas Scarnecchia said he is interviewing candidates to replace Jones for the part-time position and expects to name his appointee by next Monday. His appointment must be approved by the Democratic Central Committee.
City treasurer is part time with an annual salary of $7,500.
The emphasis on reconciliation appeared to diminish what the supervisors called “good news” at the start of the meeting. Lintner reported no city fund is in deficit and all expenditures have held to budgeted amounts.
Potter acknowledged the financial statement “shows seriousness about controlling expenditures,” but emphasized the inability to reconcile financial statements is unacceptable.
“It’s one of those fundamentals that can’t be missed ... or you’re back to where we were when this commission started,” he said. “This is where you have accountability.”
The commission has delayed its next meeting until April 19 because of the time required for reconciliation of records after training is completed. The supervisors indicated they expect reconciled records for January and February, but are uncertain whether those for March will be completed on time.