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Clarksville City Council Regular Session Report and Budget Update III, July 3rd, 2013

 

Clarksville City Council - Ward 10Clarksville, TN – This report has two sections. The first highlights the regular July council session that was moved up to tonight since Thursday (the usual date) is the 4th of July. Council members Steward and Lewis were absent. The second part covers budget items.

Regular Session Report – It was a light agenda with the one major topic being the approval of five individuals to the city’s new Ethics Commission.

The nominees were Robert Bateman (attorney), Ellen Kanervo (Director of the Clarksville’s Arts & Heritage council – a city sponsored nonprofit), Gene Washer (retired newspaperman), Willie Freeman (Minister) and Hubert Smith (retired Army General).

A questionnaire was completed by each candidate for consideration and review by the council. There were concerns of conflict of interest by some council members to include myself.

Candidate Freeman had cited donating to Mayor McMillan’s campaign. No amount or date of the donation was provided in the questionnaire. A check of the Itemized Statement of Contributions of the McMillan campaign shows the amount was $150.00 on September 1st, 2012 and correlates to the time period that Ms. McMillan was working a fundraiser to announce for re-election of mayor in 2014.

Candidate Kanervo had cited a small donation by her husband to the McMillan campaign. This was not a major issue for some of us. However, as the Director of the city’s Arts & Heritage Council, her pay comes primarily from the money the city budget (mayor and council approved) provides to keep the function operational.

Candidate Washer has cited that he may have given a $50.00 or $75.00 donation to some past campaign of Mayor McMillan.

Candidate Bateman’s and Smith’s questionnaires were clear of any concerns or issues.

Council member Jones made a motion to consider and vote on each candidate separately. She had alerted the council last week that she would like to do this. Her motion failed in a 4-yes & 6-no vote. I voted yes.

This was interesting since just about any other time a council member has requested to vote on individual nominations separately for boards and committees, it gets approved. It was also interesting to note that Councilman Redd seemed to have a prepared speech as to why we should not vote on each separately and that issues related to such small campaign donations was nothing to worry about. Councilman Redd did not state at what donation amount we should start worrying.

It seems strange that a majority of the council did not want to vet each citizen individually, especially considering it is about to place them into one of the most important jobs the city has. The concerns that I and other council members voiced in the past months came true with some of the mayor’s nominations. She was unwilling to provide a complete group of nominees that she did not have some affiliation with either through politics or city business.

In the end the nominees were voted on as a group with a 7-yes, 2-no, 2-abstain. I abstained as I saw conflict-of-interest issues with a couple of candidates and had no issues whatsoever with a couple.

City Budget – FY 2014

The final budget vote took place last Thursday, June 27th,2013. Here is some additional information on the city clinic budget issue. Other budget topics and decisions will follow in additional reports.

City Health Clinic – Update II

In the update I sent out on June 27th, city employees that went to the free city health care clinic could get a $50.00 bonus if they did an initial visit within a specific time period. This additional information surfaced since the first budget vote was taken. A question arose as to how the mayor could promise $50.00 to employees when she had not received approval in the budget?

This resulted in interesting replies from department staff as they tried to cover for the mayor’s decision. The main response was money would have to be taken from elsewhere in the budget to cover the mayor’s promise, if not approved. An interesting follow-up would have been if the council had voted down the bonus money, where would the mayor get the money since the council had not approved the concept?

The money for this action was listed within the Human Resources budget for city general employees. I asked if money for the clinic was stashed in any other accounts and was told no. Well, it turns out that Gas & Water and Transit were to have an account in their separate budgets to pay for this employee bonus. However, Transit forgot to add it and the emergency plan is the city general budgeted amount should be enough to cover Transit.

Signing contracts and making promises before the money is budgeted for and approved seems to have been standard procedure with Mayor McMillan on this project. She signed a contract over $665,000 for operating a clinic without first having the financial approval of the council. Then promises of first time clinic visit bonuses without first having the financial approval of the council (a cost of $23,300 that was listed in the Human Resources budget for city general employees).

Council efforts to remove clinic costs for employees that do not use city health insurance ($600.00/employee) and the promised bonuses failed. The city budgets were inflated over $90,000 to add employees to the clinic roster, who were not on the city health insurance plan. Around $1.2 million is saved by the city (in all departments) by employees who do not need or want the health insurance coverage of the city.

In my June 18th recap, I mentioned the controversy over what the council knew and when about the city clinic and the public version that Mayor McMillan has stated. In a radio talk show interview, the mayor refuted claims that the council was left out of the loop and that continuous information had been provided by the mayor.

The mayor was challenged about her version of events and the continuous information statement in an official Freedom of Information request filed by another council member. The request basically asked when and what information was provided to the council about the city clinic, before we saw the project in the FY 2014 budget asking the council to fund it in May 2013.

Per the Mayor’s office the following dates were provided where the clinic information was listed:

  • April 23rd, 2012 (Mayor’s HR budget workshop video)
  • April 27th, 2012 (Mayor’s Finance budget workshop video)
  • May 14th, 2012 (Council budget workshop video (non-required meeting))
  • August 8th, 2012 (Mayor’s press release)
  • August 28th ,2012/September 6th 2012 (Finance Committee Report/Department Reports)
  • December 20th, 2012/January 3rd, 2013 (Finance Committee Report/Department Reports)

The April and May workshops are on video and can be found at:

http://www.cityofclarksville.com/index.aspx?page=68

I’ll provide a brief narrative for each of these dates as to what was provided on the clinic to save you time watching the video. The one thing to keep in mind is NO city clinic data was found for presentation to the full council for its information or voting consideration on ANY executive, regular or special session agenda. These are the only sessions that ALL council members are required to attend for purposes of conducting city business.

I stated in my Jun 18 report that I had heard talk about a city clinic concept about a year. My recollection of “talk” about a city clinic correlates to a mayor’s information dates of last April and May 2012.

April 23rd Video

It states a city clinic system is being considered and is NOT in the budget for FY 2013. HR states that there is money in the Health Fund account for a city clinic and no more money would be needed to fund that. The implication appears to be money used for health insurance could be diverted/used for a clinic. Since the video talks of insurance savings, it would appear that one form of health care replaces the other in cost requirements and we will see a savings as a bottom line.

No Request for Proposals for health vendors had gone out at that time to see what concepts or abilities might be available for such a clinic. No costs are known or mentioned in the video. It is mentioned that it would be an incentive to employees, however no connection to a financial incentive/bonus to be use is stated.

As we now know there was no money in the Health Fund to operate a clinic as the FY 2014 budget had to add $600.00 per employee ($665,148 total) as a new cost factor over and above money for insurance premiums. As the mayor mentioned in the April 23rd video, the clinic concept was not in the approved FY 2013 budget and there was no money identified to perform any remodel of a city facility for a clinic.

Yet, in the amended version of the FY 2013 budget that we received about six weeks ago, a cost of $270.00, 110 was identified and added as an expense for the remodel of a clinic in the Health Fund account. That expense was NOT presented or approved by the council.  One reason the expense was not approved by the council was it NEVER came before the council for approval.

From a previous wide-angle scan of the council chambers for the April 23rd Mayor’s workshop, only the Mayor and Councilman Grubbs appear to be present for the council. So this presentation that mentions the clinic ends with no costs listed, no timetables, no location and no hard concepts of services to be provided.

April 27th Video

The Health Fund is mentioned and insurance premiums are paid for health needs and the pharmacy needs are self-insured. The clinic is mentioned as (hopefully/expectantly?) being up and running in FY 2013 and hopefully making health insurance costs cheaper. Mayor mentions/asks the Finance people if the Health Funds can be accessed to help with the on-site clinic. The answer is yes.

The mayor says it then can be used for health related expenditures. However, there is no mention that it should be used to build a clinic. Past usage of this fund has been for health insurance and medicine payments, not buildings, which has been a capital project investment in other budgets. No costs, timetables or services of the clinic are mentioned or provided. The Mayor and Councilman Grubbs are the only council members that can be viewed in attendance.

May 14th Video

The City Finance/Budget staff mentions the city clinic during the discussion of the Internal Service Funds, which contains the Health Fund for health insurance and pharmacy needs. We are self-insured for pharmacy and use health fund money to pay for insurance premiums/hospitalization and health. At video time mark 1hr:07min, the city clinic is mentioned.

A city clinic is anticipated to open in FY 2013 and insurance claims might be less than projected in the FY 2013 budget. A question as to where will it be located has no answer. The mayor states the clinic is in the “very preliminary stages of where it is going and what it is going to do”…..”nothing has been set in stone”…. “looking at the possibility of having an on-site clinic”.

From a wide-angle scan of the council chambers for the May 14th council workshop, the mayor and seven council members appear to be present for this non-required session. So this presentation that mentions the clinic ends with no costs listed, no set timetables, no location and no hard concepts of services to be provided.

August 8th – Public Announcement

A press release from the Mayor’s office states that there will be a city clinic; it will be located in a city building on Spring Street, what some of the health services will be and the vendor (CareHere) providing those services. No mention is made of costs or timetables required by the clinic are provided. There was a YouTube tape of the actual press conference. No costs or timetables are provided in the YouTube tape.

So from May to August there is no communication to let council members know that the clinic concept has gone anywhere until this surprise announcement.

August 28th

This date relates to the monthly Finance Committee meeting. The Finance Committee (at that time) is made up of council members Redd, Wallace, Grubbs and Johnson and all were present at that meeting. As part of the usual monthly agenda, a listing of city bids that have been solicited, opened and approved by the city Purchasing department is provided. That monthly agenda and supporting documentation was 82 pages.

Usually, no input is requested, provided or given by the Finance Committee on any bid unless it is pointed out for discussion. These bids/contracts are already a done deal and are provided as info only. It is listed that HR had a bid for an on-site health clinic at $23.00/PEPM (per employee, per month). Nothing in the agenda states that this is an agenda item for specific discussion or review by the committee. The minutes of that August meeting state the Purchasing department reviewed, with the committee, eight specific bids. None of which were the city clinic.

There is no written record that any council member asked any questions concerning the on-site clinic bid. There is no written record that the committee knew what the bid was actually about. There is nothing to indicate/listed that the $23.00 per month will later become $50.00 per month per employee or that the total cost will become $665,148 to operate the clinic.

The mayor’s office states the Finance reports that contained this bid were part of the total package of Department Reports provided to the council for their September 6th, 2012 regular session. Department Reports are not part of the Regular Session agenda and are downloaded as a totally separate computer file for our council iPad system. The regular agenda data for that month was 108 pages. The Department Reports were also 100 pages that month with the city bids listed on page 84.

Agendas and department reports are usually transmitted 24 hours before the regular session meeting. Unless a topic is on the agenda for a discussion, or vote, or brought up by someone as a side discussion during the council meeting, it is very unlikely one can review all that data and have one item stick out, unless you are looking specifically for it. The mayor certainly made no mention that a clinic contract was being worked and certainly did not tell the council the full price of a contract for the clinic.

December 20th

This was the December Finance meeting. The steps, information setups and meeting requirements I listed for August 28th apply here. Redd was absent from this meeting. The difference is a bid for building the clinic. It states a cost of $171,177.99.

Of course, as in August 28th, this is another after the fact action that the bid and cost did not get the light of day with the council before it was signed. This amount also does not correlate with the final cost listed in the FY 2013 amended budget where the construction costs and equipment are $270,110. I wonder where the bids are for the missing $100K? The mayor’s office did not provide any further data on that.

The bottom line is, even after the mayor touts how she kept the full council continuously informed; she cannot provide any data that supports her claim. Council members didn’t dispute that there had been talk of a city clinic and after August 2012 there would actually be one. At issue was we never knew what the total costs were going to be, where the money would be taken for building a clinic or the decisions on what employee procedures would be invoked until mid-May 2013.

The mayor has been unable to back up her statements and show that she formally and completely informed the full council on the total aspects of the city operating a clinic. Only in the last six weeks with dozens of directed questions and demands for data have we been able to sort out what happened.

This is the last info on the clinic I’ll provide, as I am sure you are as frustrated as I am over how this was accomplished. The clinic idea is good, but the execution of information flow and involvement of the council was MIA.

Other budget items to come.


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