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What’s in Lincoln’s future now?

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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As soon as City Council unanimously approved putting Measure K on November’s election, several Lincoln residents began mentioning a recall at city meetings and in online blogs and letters to the editor “I’d like for Anna, Jim, Short and Tom to step down. They’ve been around too long,” Noreen Skillman said. Skillman is Councilman Stan Nader’s chief of staff. CPA David Masche said his confidence in city management” is very low.” What the city needs, in Masche’s opinion, is to replace VTD with “competent finance staff” and annually bid the city’s audit. “Richardson & Company should have found the loss allocated to General Fund,” Masche said. The city manager and assistant city manager/CFO should be able to answer The News Messenger questions asked in December on how much reserves the city holds, according to Masche. The city manager and assistant city manager said on Dec. 13 that they didn’t know how much money Lincoln has in total reserves. “The city is waffling if they can’t tell us how much money they have in reserves,” Masche said. “It’s weird we don’t have better reporting. It’s complicated but they should know what the amount is. If they could tell the public this is how much money we have in reserves in the General Fund and the other funds, that’s not asking too much.” Councilman Tom Cosgrove defended the city manager’s failure to answer The News Messenger’s question Dec. 13 on how much money is in Lincoln’s total reserves. Last week, Cosgrove told The News Messenger that asking for the total reserves is the wrong question to ask. Cosgrove said the newspaper had to be more specific in asking for the dollar amount of the city’s 72 funds’ reserves. The city’s audited financials, though, from 2008 and 2009, state the total net reserves. Before Estep was hired, Masche said, the city didn’t have an audit for three years. While Estep “granted” had past audits completed, Masche added, “there’s no excuse not to know the reserve balance.” Lincoln resident and labor lawyer Terrie Robinson wants city representatives to listen to the concerns of community members. “I would want transparency, fiscal responsibility. I want a new attitude. They (Estep, Jatczak, Short, Joiner and Cosgrove) have forgotten who they serve.” Robinson said they could change. “Will they? That’s the larger question,” Robinson, a Team Lincoln member, said. Team Lincoln, Robinson explained, is a group “of concerned citizens who choose to offer solutions, criticize when criticism is necessary but basically want a city that does their job.” “If Lincoln had been doing their job, nobody would care,” Robinson said. “You provide services. When you can’t provide services and you ask for more money, people want to know what did you do with the money. They never clearly answered that question.” The News Messenger asked Estep what he would say to comments that city staff needs more transparency and fiscal responsibility. “I’m not quite sure what they’re really asking,” Estep said. “What we’ve done in the time we’ve been here is to clean up the finances of the city, both by completing the audits not done for three years and bringing to light the fiscal issues the city is facing. In the past, City Council had not been informed of the fiscal constraints the city was facing. New City Councilman Gabriel Hydrick said transparency is what he wants to see. “We need to get our financial house in order,” Hydrick said. “Books haven’t been closed for a few years; there have been misallocations for a few years. We need to get organized.” For starters, Hydrick would like the city to put in place recommendations from Richardson & Company. In audited reports, which city management and City Council have received, the consultants say that the city “does not have the internal controls in place to prevent or detect misstatements on a timely basis” and “… lack of central oversight …” “We should follow some of the recommendations Richardson has given us – to put procedures and processes in place so our books are accurate,” Hydrick said, “that we have a clear picture, so we see what it costs to operate the city in all departments. Millions of dollars in development fees have not been collected – stuff like that has to stop.”