Money To Burn In Fraser.
Free image via Pixabay

If you think that Washington D.C. has cornered the market on the ineptitude of government officials then you should take a closer look at where they learned these tactics. Most likely it was in your hometown and right under your nose.

Take for example my Lil hometown of Fraser, Michigan. A small town of 14,616 according to Data USA from 2017.

This town nestled warmly on the banks of the not so mighty Doobie Creek ( inside joke for the locals) and has in the past three years experienced political turmoil that would make cities like Detroit and Chicago blush.

I have covered some of these issues here and will continue to do so being I feel it is important to do so.

Here are some of the things I have touched on recently…

Preventing And Exposing Corruption Starts Locally. Welcome To Fraser, Michigan.

Something Smells Fishy In Fraser, Michigan.

In Fraser, Ignoring Sexual Harassment Claims At City Hall Means You Should Run For Office

The above articles give a glimpse into how backward and even corrupt a small town and its politics can be.

With the last two articles listed above, I have been going into detail about the election coming up in Nov 2019 and in particular the tenure of the former City Manager who now wants a seat on the council. Richard Haberman was removed as Fraser’s City Manager after close to six years at the helm of the city.

As I list in one of the stories above referencing Haberman’s time as C.M. along with his gal pal, Barbara Jennings, who was at the time a city councilperson herself and says she was propositioned by the Mayor at the time to extend Haberman’s contract for one year. All she had to do was vote for a contract for a company awarding the city’s towing services to the one that the Mayor wanted. She reported this to police according to press reports at the time being she was horrified that she was offered such a deal.

However, four years later she happily went to the former Mayor she accused of propositioning her for an illegal vote to get his signature to get her boyfriend on the ballot.

In the other story listed above, Haberman was also mentioned in a sexual harassment lawsuit where his employees came to him to report unacceptable behavior by two elected officials who were later removed by the council for those actions. Haberman instructed one of the ladies to “Get a Lawyer” according to one of the depositions.

The ladies did just that and the city has now settled that lawsuit for around $230,000.

Now, we shall take a look at what Richard Haberman lists on his campaign flyer as one of the reasons for his seeking office in a city he once led.

*Re-establish fiscal responsibility.

After Haberman left his job at the city at the beginning of Jan 2017, the city was facing some financial challenges that had to be tackled. In an article from Detroit News at the end of 2017 the situation was described like this…

Faced with a $14 million budget and about $12 million in revenues, the budget knives came out.

In a money-saving effort, the City Council approved cuts, including a layoff of eight of its police officers, by a 5-1 vote, after a proposed 3-mill increase was turned down by voters last month. The millage would have raised $1.1 million a year.

And more cuts are expected, according to Wayne O’Neal, the city’s manager.

“We’re a train wreck,” O’Neal said. “But these cuts were predicted some time ago by other city managers if something wasn’t done.

“There is not enough revenue to support city services as enjoyed by residents, but it took a new City Council to understand the gravity of the situation, and there really is no other choice. This is not something you can ‘budget’ out of to resolve.

“And it’s going to get worse. I expect this place will be broke in 18 months and run out of cash.”

Once again, back to Haberman’s flyer, he claims that his *Knowledge* left a balanced budget and more than a two million dollar fund balance and using creative services to not raise taxes and maintaining services.

So what happened then in those twelve months where everything was rosy to all of a sudden the wheels almost coming off from the city’s financial wagon.

Well, you have to look into Haberman’s final years as C.M. to get an idea.

I obtained an email responding to councilperson Patrice Schornack from the city finance director Tim Sadowski from October 2nd of this year. One of the things Patrice was wondering, was how were the financial audits under Haberman.

Here was Mr. Sadowski’s response.

From: Tim Sadowski [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 10:04 AM
To: Patrice Schornak <[email protected]> Subject: RE: Information needed please

Good morning Patrice,

First, Attached is the letter to the State of Michigan Local Government Finance Service Division acknowledging she brought in a “government accountant” for budgeting, bank reconciliations and to correct the deficiencies in the APR. The City spent $121,891.76 on Plante Moran assisting her from 2015-2017 (Attached) and $118,260.55 on The Woodhill Group assisting her from 2016-2017 (Attached) (this number does not include the interim finance director contract for The Woodhill Group from July 2017 through September 2017).

Second, the impact of the early retirements/buyouts and financial impacts to City including MERS/OPEB is a complicated formula including 1) the buyout amount, 2) if the positions were replaced and 3) the difference of the benefit each individual is receiving during their early retirement compared to their projected “regular” retirement date.

Timothy Sadowski

City Treasurer

City of Fraser

33000 Garfield Rd

Fraser, MI 48026

(586) 293-3100 ext 120 work

(586) 293-1045 fax

Attached to the email was a letter from Jan-11-2015 from the previous city finance director, Mary Jaganjac to the state of Michigan concerning some “deficiencies” listed on the audit process report. Mary indicates that they have hired an outside firm to help with this.

The letter is listed below.

Jan-11-2015 Letter Admitting City’s Deficiencies on the Auditing Procedures Report

Two firms were used during the time frame from 2015-2017

Plante Moran

Plante Moran – Professional Services from 2015-2017 – $121,891.76

The Woodhill Group

The Woodhill Group – Professional Services from 2016-2017 – $118,260.55

How bad were Fraser’s books that Richard Haberman had to hire two outside firms and pay them $240,152,31 to make sure the state was satisfied with its results?

What creative solutions were being used?

What measure of fiscal responsibility allows you to have to spend almost a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS in addition to your finance director’s salary of 70K plus and allows you to say everything is good?

Also, what exactly were the deficiencies that the state was alerted to that needed to be corrected?

These are serious questions that need to be asked. The voters deserve to know what these answers are.

The candidate who once was the head of this city during this time needs to answer them to see if he is competent enough to serve as a dependable elected official for the next four years.

 

More to come…….

 

Check out my other posts here on Red State and my podcast Bourbon On The Rocks plus like Bourbon On The Rocks on Facebook and follow me on the twitters at IRISHDUKE2