Sunday, August 26, 2007

More Scandal, More Fun!

This post is going to be a big ol' wall of text, but I think it lays out some interesting scenarios and levels some very serious charges against individuals within Utica city government. All of this material was emailed to me anonymously, so I make no claims to it's accuracy or validity. That said, it doesn't seem like any of this would be that hard to fact-check.

I have made some formatting changes in order to make it easier to read.

First off, some alleged shenanigans on the city's payroll.

Our City Comptroller, Mr. Cerminaro was elected to office in November 2005. One of his assistants in achieving election is a Mr. David Baran. Well, our Comptroller felt it necessary as his first act in office to promote Mr. Baran. In doing so, a number of issues were discovered by the fine Civil Service Union and Civil Service Department. The number one issue was Mr. Baran, as working in his capacity in the City Payroll Department, was receiving Longevity pay for over 6 years for which he was not entitled to. Since he was working in the payroll department, you would think he’d know he wasn’t entitled to this type of pay. We are talking longevity pay in excess of 12 percent per year for 6 years on a salary in the $40,000 range. Meaning he was overpaid in excess of $4,800/ year for 6 years or a total of $28,800. In addition, Mr. Baran was only entitled to 2 weeks vacation each year but instead was getting 5 weeks. He had 13 weeks vacation on the books when this was discovered. Mr. Baran will claim as his defense that he has been an employee since 1976. He was fired by Edward Hanna in January 1999. He came back to work for the City as a temporary employee through a staffing company for two weeks in January 2000. He later was hired as a full time employee in October 2000 meaning he was separated from service from city employment in excess of 1 year. When he gets hired in October 2000 he is essentially a new employee not entitled to Longevity pay until his 10th year of employment. He claims he never had a break in employment service time greater than a year.

It turns out that You, us and everyone else knows you are not considered an employee of the company you are working for if it is as a temporary employee through a employment agency. Mr. Baran knows better than this and so does the Comptroller. Mr. Baran claimed this as his defense and why he was entitled to the longevity pay. Well, after review from the Union and review from the City’s Legal Office, Mr. Baran and Mr. Cerminaro worked out a deal after much argument. Mr. Baran was to not have to pay back the overpaid salary in exchange just give back 10 weeks vacation. How is this in the best interests of the city taxpayers like You and Us? Shouldn’t our Attorney’s office have sued to recover the overpaid salary? After a couple of months, the Attorney’s office inquired if the vacation time change was made and were assured it was by these two clowns. The attorney’s office was then notified by a confidential source the time had not been removed. It took this much to get his time to be removed. So you can see the integrity of these two is not very good. Furthermore, if you inquire enough you will also find these two conspired to give Mr. Baran a promotion and pay raise to his very old salary.

To conclude, Mr. Baran ultimately was overpaid $4,800 a year for 6 years or $28,800 as a result of being given Longevity pay he was not entitled to. He was getting compensated time off in excess of 5 weeks a year he was not entitled to. He was being paid retroactive pay, overtime pay, etc. on an inflated salary. He did not have to pay any of this back. Just give back 10 weeks vacation. In fact he now earns more than before the cover up was discovered, has his compensated time off back in the form of Compensated time off and vacation time, and didn’t have to pay any money back. He was promoted after this was discovered to reach his previous salary. He now is accumulating Compensated time in excess of the 10 weeks he had given back. He ultimately is in a better situation now than he was before the cover up was discovered.

A bit of the ol' switcharoo using Urban Renewal?

The second important cover up is the City’s Urban Renewal Agency. The Urban Renewal agency has accumulated money owed to the City Taxpayer’s in excess of $400,000. The Agency is bankrupt and our fine Comptroller continues to pay bills and payroll for the agency. Our Comptroller has a fiduciary duty to protect taxpayer money by recovering Overpaid Salaries whether it’s his office or Urban Renewal Agency. The Comptroller will tell you the Agency is going to get properties from the City from Foreclosures and etc and the City will get it’s money back. Please raise the issue, how much interest do the taxpayers of this city have in those properties the Agency will get from the City after Foreclosure. In other words, the property has $1,200 owed in City taxes on the property. The owner doesn’t pay the tax bill. The City, under Mr. Cerminaro’s plan, will foreclose on the property, sell it to Urban Renewal for $1 and the City Taxpayer will get nothing and the Urban Renewal Agency will $1,200. So in essence, Mr. Cerminaro is taking our interest in collecting a tax debt, forgiving that debt, sending the property to Urban Renewal for Sale.

And lastly, some questions about how the city handles credit card fees.

The third issue is this. Mr. Cerminaro as part of his election promises, wants to make it easier for City taxpayers to pay their taxes. I see when I went down there, there are some changes. I also saw a sign that stated Credit Cards are being accepted for payment. Who is paying the interchange fee on these credit cards? Meaning, is the City being charged a percentage of the total credit card transaction? I do not believe the City is getting anything from the County or Solid Waste or School from collecting these taxes. So let me get this right, the City is charged a percentage each time a credit card transaction is performed. If the City accepts payment by credit card on County taxes are we as City Taxpayers paying the interchange fee of 2%?