“Clamping down” on the wrong things
In the most recent Hoboken Reporter, a big page-three article discussed how Mayor Roberts is being vigilant against the “extravagant spending” during Hoboken conventions.
Many people believe that while it’s good for the City government to keep costs such as this down, that this article was nothing more that a “good PR” piece that diverts attention from other matters. Oh, such as the slightly more significant $52,000,000 Hospital sinkhole that the City is driving it’s taxpayers into.
In big quotes, the Mayor’s pledge:
“If there are any other areas where the city government is being extravagant, I will put a stop to it too”
Why does it take a relatively minor expenditure like this to get their attention? Because it’s “easy”? You can also read other wasteful areas that local resident Helen Hirsch pointed out last week.
Here’s the link to the Reporter article, or read the rest below:
City clamps down on spending at convention
Mayor restricts employee reimbursements from annual municipal conference
By Michael D. Mullins
After spending $20,281.24 of taxpayers’ money settling reimbursement claims from city employees who attended the three-day League of Municipalities Conference held last November in Atlantic City, Mayor David Roberts imposed stringent restrictions on staff planning to attend future conventions.
“Last year I became concerned with the number of people attending [the conference] and the cost associated with it,” said Roberts this past Tuesday. “There’s a great deal of important information available through the seminars offered, but it’s in a venue in Atlantic City, which has a certain level of decadence and there are networking and parties at night.”
One of the most expensive claims came from a Parking Utility employee for a business dinner party in which Director John Corea spent $1,700 entertaining vendors.
Corea did not approve the claim prior to its submission, and he said he never intended for the city to pay for the dinner, but did not feel comfortable allowing the vendor to pick up the tab. Corea rescinded the claim.
The mayor, who said the cost of the dinner was “inappropriate” and “excessive,” added, “[Corea’s] performance has been excellent as director and he has not done anything like this before.”
Roberts insisted that his decision for altering the policy was not the result of one dinner tab, but rather from a series of conversations he had with mayors of other local municipalities in which he learned that Hoboken’s former policy toward the conference was “liberal” in comparison.
The majority of expenses accrued during the conference came from hotel fees from the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort, in which some 47 rooms were paid for in advance by the city of Hoboken for its employees to stay for three nights, amounting to $19,740. Sixteen individuals did not attend, forcing the city to pay for rooms that were not occupied. According to Business Administrator Richard England, due to a change in hotel policy, this is the first year the city was forced to pay for vacant hotel rooms for all three nights.
In previous years they were required to pay only for the first of three nights.
Of the Hoboken attendees who did not stay at the hotel, only Roberts and the city’s Chief Financial Officer George DeStefano have been reimbursed their hotel fees, bringing the actual total attributed hotel costs to $18,930.
Additional fees reimbursed by the city included money spent on tolls, gas, business-related telephone calls, and a daily food allowance.
In the future the city will only reimburse the cost of registration and workshop attendance fees automatically. The attendees will pay all future lodging and dining costs.
However, additional costs associated with traveling to the conference or conducting city-related business from Atlantic City will be paid by the city as long the costs are pre-approved by the mayor and business administrator prior to being incurred.
“In the future, if there are any other areas where the city government is being extravagant, I will put a stop to it too,” promised Roberts.
The New Jersey State League of Municipalities
Since 1915, a state statute has authorized the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, a voluntary association that serves 13,000 officials from all 566 New Jersey municipalities, to provide a venue in which information and resources can be exchanged between representatives from different cities throughout the Garden State to improve the self-governing ability of each municipality.
In addition to city employees, members of Hoboken’s Planning and Zoning boards and the City Council were also invited to attend the Atlantic City conference this past November.
More than 100 panels, clinics, and workshops were offered during the three-day conference, in which participants were exposed to vendor exhibits that displayed the latest products and services used by municipal governments.
The League of Municipalities also publishes a monthly magazine providing information on municipal administration and procedures to over 8,500 readers. Other league services include municipal ordinances and codes, legislative bulletins, contracts, new laws, and instructional seminars and research publications.
Michael Mullins can be reached at mmullins@Hudsonreporter.com.