Martin Commission’s first meeting of 2012: new year, old tricks

Virginia Sherlock

 

Attorney Sherlock summarizes the concerns that Martin residents should be aware of about the use/misuse of the Consent Agenda:

It will come as no surprise that the Consent Agenda is still being used to hide big-money items from public discussion.

Consent Agenda Item 4E1 seeks automatic (consent) approval for an additional $100,000.00 in tourist tax funds for the Martin County Destination Marketing Corporation, which has already been awarded $460,213.00 for tourism development for FY2011-2012.

This request may be entirely appropriate, but the agenda packet is far from complete and the request is far from clear.  It does not seem too much to ask an agency that wants an additional $100,000 – bringing its annual tax-funded budget to well over half a million dollars – to give a brief presentation to allow the BOCC and the public to evaluate the request. 

Why does the agency need more money?  What has it done with previously allocated funds?

The agenda packet contains an exhibit that is not clear or specific and contains no justification for the need for increased funding (which may be justified, but simply isn’t clear from the materials provided).  The item says the money will go to the Convention & Visitors Bureau but the contract is with the Martin County Marketing Corporation.  What’s the relationship between the CVB and the corporation (and the TDC for that matter)? 

The public should be given an explanation – and Commissioners should be fully aware of what they’re approving – when more than half-a-million dollars in public funds is being allocated.

Consent Agenda item 4C2 also is worth public discussion.  The request is not clear from the materials provided.  It appears that staff is asking for authorization from the BOCC to allow the County Administrator to sign “construction agreements” with the Florida Department of Transportation as various unidentified projects are proposed, without having the BOCC approve each agreement.  The sample agreement is unclear, however.  It is an agreement between the state FDOT and the “construction coordinator.”  Is the “construction coordinator” Martin County?  The “construction coordinator” has a lot of responsibilities and liabilities – including the obligation to indemnify the state from any damages – and waives rights to object or challenge material terms.  

Once again, it does not seem to be too much to ask that staff explain this arrangement to the public and the BOCC before asking the BOCC to simply hand over authority to the County Administrator that could prove to be extremely costly if errors are made.

Consent Agenda Item 4F1 is another item that contains lots of numbers that should be explained.  Staff is asking for approval of adjustments to amend Utilities and Solid Waste fund balances by millions of dollars.  This may be routine accounting practice, but it seems as if the public should aware of the allocation of literally millions of dollars in utilities and solid waste funds reserves. 

Many of these issues are dry and tedious to discuss.  But Commissioners owe it to the public to give proper attention to millions of dollars of expenditures and juggling of taxpayer dollars.
There are only two BOCC meetings in January, three in February, two in March, two in April. 

The chair finds plenty of time for concerts and proclamations at increasingly infrequent BOCC  meetings . . . surely he can squeeze in a few minutes to let the public know how our money is being spent.

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