At the start of our recall, shortly after Philip Rodriguez was fired by Ken Kreutzer, the City of Brighton’s Communication office began distributing a flier that they also shared across social media, to attempt to explain away the public outcry on the nearly $70,000,000 surplus sitting in the water department.
This flier was unsuccessful in calming the concerns of the city residents, long tired of being overcharged for their water and of a city staff arrogantly telling them to “go check for leaks”.
The flier made its first appearance only two days after the start of our Recall Campaign.
The original flier distributed by the city on July 18 is here:
The slightly amended flier now in circulation is shown here (click for a clear image).
And it references this CAFR Audited Financial Statement for the Brighton Water Department from December 31, 2018, shown here (click for a larger image).
The circular is full of inaccuracies, political spin, and intentional misinformation, as our Committee has repeatedly spelled out for the residents of Brighton.
They call it a “Fact Sheet”, but very little of it is factual.
(This is your government, Brighton.)
The simplest way to deconstruct this flier is to walk through it item-by-item, which is what we will do below:
“Where is the $70,000,000?”
The city alleges that the fund is actually $61,3651,399 using the 2018 CAFR report as its source.
What they fail to mention is that this is the total amount of money in the UNRESTRICTED account (meaning, no projects attached to the money).
(See the CAFR, at the bottom.)
This is a separate line item and is basically a “holding account” of money not needed for current or actually planned (out for bid) projects.
There is actually nearly $200,000,000 in total funds in our water department, as you can see on the last two account lines of the CAFR report. The city only mentions the $70,000,000 in the unrestricted (any use / no use) fund.
Also, it’s important to note that water usage surges in the summers, but the figure being used by the city is from December 31, 2018 – the dead of winter. The city takes in between $15million and $18million in new fee revenue every year, and most of that is in the summer months. At the time of this circular, the unrestricted fund was very likely more than $70,000,000.
The city also makes the laughable claim – with certainty – that “there is no money missing”. While the Recall movement doesn’t allege theft, we do allege that this statement is nonsense. The fund has never been properly accounted for since it began to swell in 2011. There is no way to know, without a forensic audit, if money is missing or not.
“What projects will this money be used for?”
This portion is a deliberate deception by the City. The projects listed are already part of the larger “Net Investment for Capital Assets” line item on the CAFR report and are NOT being paid for – in any way – by the $70,000,000 unrestricted account.
In order for city funds to be allocated to a project, the project must be out for bid and the city council must have voted on it. The projects listed here are already part of the larger fund. As of August 15, 2019, there have been no votes of the city council to use any of this unrestricted account.
This part of the circular is an outright lie on the part of the city. Unless they are admitting that they violated the law and used these funds without a vote of the city council and a bid process, they lied to us.
“Are we paying too much?”
The city says here they are examining the question with outside experts, but it’s a process that was started by new (and now terminated) City Manager Philip Rodriguez as part of his 75-Day Work Plan to fix the water department problems back in December 2018.
The city also wants to tout that rates stopped climbing in 2017, but that was the direct result of Rodriguez putting a stop to rate hikes (after eight straight years of them), in one of the first decisions as new city manager.
“Will I get a refund?”
We could make a lot of fun at this non-answer, but suffice it to say, read for yourself.
“When will the forensic audit review be complete?”
The city is correct in the fact that the selection of an auditor is underway.
At the behest of councilman Matt Johnston, the city should now be looking at 2008-2018, so it may take months for this to be completed.