Thursday, August 13, 2009

Amanda Tackett Addresses Bill Keffler's Auto Expenses

33 comments:

  1. I have been going to the council meeting on and off every since the “TC Shaved Ice and imminent domain” issue several years ago. When I first started attending the council meetings, I was expecting a Dallas City Council kind of atmosphere, lots of upset and contentious people. I was pleasantly surprised when this turned out not to be the case. At he time, it all appeared very pleasant

    Things have been heating up in our sleepy little town and people have been waking up to find what they perceive as some underhand behaviors and questionable ethics. I am right there with them on some of these things.

    It is easy to get frustrated and mad at Bill for the car allowances issue, as well as a few other things. He is only partly responsible (only for accepting what the city offered), the real displeasure should be more directly focus on the city council members who approved these type of expenses.

    It has been mentioned the perk’s concerning cars and allowances have been increasing to make up for the reluctance to raise salaries for some of the city employees who are at the top of their pay grade.

    In comparing current national politics and to our city’s politics, it is getting to be some kind of spooky. People are really ticked off at the federal government because of what they view as imprudent spending habits. People who disagree with the feds are labeled rednecks (I may be a redneck) and racists (but I try my best not to be this), as well as some more colorful and demeaning names.

    Richardson’s council and city management seem to be doing many things right and good, but the City of Richardson, through the city council and city management, in the view of many people, appear to be going in the same direction as the federal government. The apparent core of discontent being displayed by many residents relates to finances, whether it is the golf course fund or financial perks related to car allowances. Rather than car allowances, car fleets and the like, for who knows how much, and for who knows how many, how about Richardson residents only reimbursing city employees for documented mileage while driving their personal car while conducting city business for what the feds allow business to write off, something like $0.55 a mile or so. That would seem to take care of both the personal expense city employees would incurred, as well as the residents needs concerning getting the most for their money and not over paying. It sounds fair to me.

    In general though, it seems a firestorm is brewing. The contention and contempt that is being more openly displayed by Richardson residents appears to be a shot over the bow of the yacht city officials are piloting. Richardson resident ask asking for more responsible spending of their tax dollars. Rather than the residents who are speaking up and who sometimes are thought of at tin foil hat nutty, maybe instead, should be taken seriously and heeded.

    Just two more of my cents,

    David

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  2. David you're gonna go broke here pretty soon. (:

    Only kidding of course, thanks for the input. I totally agree!

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  3. On the bright side, I still have a few pennies left over. And where should I spend them if not here?

    David :0)

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  4. David:

    I think your posts are compelling and interesting; certainly well worth following. I'd sure like it if there were an easy way to follow your posts. Like your own blog or something. Hint, hint. Or at least a login.

    Keep up the thoughtful work, brother.

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  5. YES! YES! YES!

    http://davidthemechanic.blogspot.com/
    is available.

    (get it? like Joe the Plumber)

    :)

    I'll help you set it up and we can add all of your posts/comments from C&P!

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  6. Thanks, but no thanks. Posting here makes me much less rash, harsh, impulsive, etc. And that is a very good thing. I never have liked eating shoe leather, and if I had my own site, The main Staple in my diet would consist almost exclusively of shoe leather.

    David :)

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  7. Regardless of what Keffler and Slagel may say concerning this issue, I hear that Keffler was explicitly told several times by the former mayor to STOP using fleet cars as his 2nd vehicle when the family was using his city provided car, and that as soon as the Richardson Coalition succeeded in getting "Slago-jevich" back as mayor, the practice immediately started again. Gee, I know that this is so shocking...

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  8. I'm Shocked! NOT!!

    Steve could only do so much without support from the others. It would be nice to get verification or documentation on the above statement though.

    David

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  9. Richardson has bigger issues to focus on. I think it would be more visible if the council just upped his salary instead of giving him a car allowance, and I'm all for visibility, but either way, compensation will rise to meet the market rate for city managers.

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  10. I'm sorry, Ed, but your comment here makes no sense at all. What does including a car allowance in his base salary OR compensation rising to meet the market have to do with Keffler using a fleet car when his family is using his city provided car? I can guarantee you that the private sector would frown on this kind of behavior, and, more than likely, an employee who did it would be terminated.

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  11. barb, whether private companies would frown or terminate the employee all depends on company policy. Does this violate Richardson policy?

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  12. C'mon, Ed, you're cracking us all up here. I highly doubt that the city has a written policy which says something like "if you are given a city-provided leased car, then you are not to utilize a city fleet car when your wife and children are using your city-provided leased car when their cars break down". If your ethical compass doesn't tell you that this is wrong, then common sense should.

    Keffler makes nearly a $250K and is the 3rd highest city manager in the region. He should know that this isn't appropriate. For you to imply that this needs to be spelled out in some policy manual is ridiculous.

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  13. barb, I'm happy I'm amusing you, but, yes, I'm suggesting Richardson should have a written policy defining who is eligible to drive the fleet of city-owned vehicles. But I suspect there is such a policy and Keffler's use of the cars conforms to the policy. In that case, if you have a beef with the policy, focus on changing it, not on criticizing Keffler for not conforming to your idea of what the policy should be, but isn't.

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  14. I have to agree with Ed on this one. If we all know ethics is a problem here (and we do), then restricting policies is the most efficient way to handle things.

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  15. Like I said, whether private companies would frown or terminate the employee all depends on
    the company.

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  16. Ed, you are starting to sound (AGAIN) a bit Richardson Coalition-esque in your comments. You "suspect there is such a policy and Keffler's use of the cars conforms to the policy". How do you know this? Have you seen the policy? If one exists, then all old Keff had to do when asked about it was say "per section XYZ, the policy says...", instead of stumbling over his words.

    If the earlier post is true that the prior mayor told Keffler to stop using the fleet car, then I'd say that, at a minimum, an informal policy existed (to NOT use it - and Keffler has continued to do so).

    Honestly, I think no formal policy exists, and this is just an example of another city employee working/milking the system. From top to bottom, you read that these kinds of things occur all of the time (e.g. DISD).

    Since common sense and ethics DON'T prevail here, the council should, sadly, set about writing a formal policy which says "No Bill, you can't use the fleet car when you have let your family use your city leased car when their cars are broken down".

    I am so glad that the council gets to spend their valuable time doing this for a city manager who makes over a quarter of a million dollar per year! What other policies does the council need to write to address these kinds of issues?

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  17. Good job D! Breaking stories before they become stories in the DMN. What a gem you!

    http://richardsonblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/08/car-allowances-come-under-ques.html

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  18. Amanda and I are facebook friends. :)

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  19. barb, I don't know that there's a policy. Given how sensitive the public is over every perceived abuse of power by public servants, every government body ought to have written policies for employees. And they ought to be posted online. They can be useful to deflect public criticism.

    By the way, I am not reflexively pro- or anti-Richardson Coalition.

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  20. My opinion is this. It's easy to say this is a non-issue. In fact, this auto allowance issue is a very big deal, but not for what it is. It's a problem for what it represents.

    Sure, it's a small technical infraction, no biggie... But, it is my experience that when ANYONE is willing to cheat, lie, steal, abuse, take liberties with ANYTHING on a small scale that behavior is indicative of how that person will behave in larger "important" issues.

    It's super easy to sit behind a fake name and spout opinions, but facts are facts. Keffler's actions are but one of myriad "no big deal" abuses that happen all the time.

    Richardson will not move forward until the mess left behind from years of abuses, i.e. "little issues" is cleaned up and corrected.

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  21. anonymous, how is it an infraction at all? Cite the ordinance, regulation, policy, whatever except your own perception of how things ought to be, where this is an infraction.

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  22. OMG, Ed, you are throwing all common sense out the window by your ridiculous comments - you say that you're not, but you continue to show that you are a nothing but an Richardson Coalition pawn.

    What? "Perception of how things ought to be". C'mon, I guarantee you that, if you took a random, objective poll on this topic, no one would think that the city manager should be doing this.

    Do entities like the city need to spell out every little ethical nuance that can possibly exist in some kind of policy or regulation to ensure that it's employees (or elected officials, for that matter) are not doing these kinds of things? Apparently so.

    The DISD is in the disasterous shape that it is in today because the "little issues" have grown to big ones. And, it is both the employees and elected officials who are doing it. Seriously, Richardson, with Slagel and his continued ethical lapses, is heading down the same path. Let's face it - it's a slippery slope. Once you begin to go down it, it's hard to stop.

    -Slippery slope

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  23. Seems to me that Mr. keffler is just a bit too expensive for our little town. Having to pay for car insurance for his whole family probably adds up. Sam

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  24. The market rate for a city manager is laid out in the Charter. It is what the Council decides to pay a public servant. The question is, how much public servant do we need? With all the assistant management czars on hand, a whole lot of funny business can be administered. That is what we have in Richardson. Too much funny business and not enough focus on the things that matter, like tending to maintaining the infrastructure. We are too busy selling this lemon to be concerned with keeping it running smoothly. --ripper

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  25. Amen, ripper. Our city bureaucracy is so bloated, particuarly at the top. And, let me tell you, life at the top is sweet. I hear that almost $1 million is spent every year on car allowances for city employees. OMG - what are we, Hertz?

    -This is crazy

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  26. More to come...

    David "aka mud"

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  27. @ Ed: Awww, you're so cute when you're OBTUSE.

    Okay "Ed," why don't you put your money where your mouth is? You seem to (at least think) you are super-connected, and omniscient on all things Richardson (but those blasted Belo folks always leave you out, making you the last to know), BUT we'll pretend you are all-knowing, all seeing in Richardson. Show us where it's specifically "okay" for Keffler to double dip on ANY perk?

    Poor Ed can't see the forest for the trees.

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  28. Ever notice that the same 6 or 7 people post all this negative conspiracy nonsense on every Richardson-related blog?

    Car allowances, hmm.

    So lets see.

    The City maintains no fleet of vehicles for the workers at City Hall. The PD has fleet vehicles for detectives, and the service center has most of them for streets, water, and parks. Most of the allowances are located at City Hall, oddly enough, for health inspectors, building inspectors, neighborhood integrity inspectors, parks supervisors, and upper managers who have to spend a lot of time going to meetings and so forth, or traveling between the 18 City facilities.

    So, they draw a $400 or so car allowance, for the most part. First things first, they pay income tax on it, so end up with $250-$300. Then, they buy gas, buy insurance, and put a lot of miles on their car. Do they break even? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not.

    Some perk.

    Of course, the City could buy another fleet of vehicles, to replace the car allowance system, and pay the car's cost, debt service, insurance, gasoline, mechanical upkeep, lawsuits every time one had an accident, etc etc.

    Gee, that would be a good deal for the City, huh?

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  29. Anonymous, when you say they draw $400, is that a month or a year?

    David

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  30. @ anonymous 8/19 4:32 am...

    How do you KNOW they claim this on their taxes? How do you KNOW it's "$400?"

    The facts don't support your claims. Keffler makes $1200 a month. This is for his payment and insurance (for the Keffler 7). If you want to be an apologist for a cause, why not pick something like baby whales?

    If you're saying it's not a perk, then that's easy. Let's eliminate all fleet cars for city hall, and all car allowances. We'll save $1M a year.

    Finally, a solution everyone agrees on...

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  31. FY07-08 car allowances - ~$410,455.38. 08-09 YTD (to 7/24) ~$359,756.38. Calculated for full yr - ~$435,054.23. ~100 employees get car allowance. @ $0.50 per mile - 870,108 miles

    (0.0)
    -

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  32. Finally, Ian speaks up about this in the morning paper. The $841k for car allowances per year for the 141 getting the allowance. That averages out to only $5964 a year for each person getting the allowance.

    Ok, about 100k residents in Richardson, so that is only $8 per resident per year.

    When I was young, my allowance was only $1.00 a week. That was good for a Saturday afternoon movie, 10 cent popcorn and a 15 cent drink. Not that it matter, but smokes were only about 40 cent a pack back then.

    David

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