Dispute roils city council; Member calls conflict of interest over $40,000 in budget to transfer acting city manager Randy Dunn's son, Craig, within fire department
An accusation of conflict of interest overshadowed the mid-year budget revision meeting of the Colusa City Council last Wednesday.
Councilwoman Marilyn Acree questioned what she perceived to be a case of conflict of interest in the promotion of Craig Dunn from a per-diem employee to a limited term part-time employee. Craig Dunn is the son of Fire Chief and acting City Manager Randy Dunn.
"This was discussed in closed session, and we are diving into closed session," said Randy Dunn, who was visibly upset that Acree mentioned the employee's name.
A heated exchange ensued. Councilman Kirk Kelleher moved to approve proposed budget revisions, possibly in an effort to ease the tension, but Councilwoman Donna Critchfield rejected that motion.
"There is nothing that makes council members look more like facilitators than sweeping controversial things under the rug," Critchfield said, then suggested more discussion.
A question of transparency
After the meeting, Acree said she was concerned about the city's goal of improving transparency, especially in regards to the budget.
"When reviewing the 2013/14 mid-year budget, I questioned the need for increased expenditure for the Fire Department of $96,100 and asked for clarification on what the amount represented. I was advised by staff, and confirmed at the mid-year budget Special Meeting, that $40,000 of the $96,100 was to reclass a per diem employee, Crag Dunn, to a limited term part time," Acree wrote in a letter.
"When reviewing our City Manager ordinance, the reclassification of this employee and authoriation for this additional expenditure of $40,000 had to be approved by (Randy Dunn)," Acree continued. "In 2013 Council approved revisions to the Employee Handbook ... (which) clearly states that under no circumstances will a direct reporting relationship be allowed between family members or relatives."
Randy Dunn refused to comment on Acree or the accusation.
New fire supervisor
After Dunn took over as acting city manager, Logan Conley was appointed to be operations captain of the fire department, in charge of the day-to-day operation. Conley, who spoke to the council at the meeting, said he is an intermediary between the father and son and added moving Craig Dunn to his current position was common for all personnel reaching 1,000 hours of service.
But that's not the point, Acree said in an interview on Monday.
"Ultimately, what goes on in the fire department is (Randy Dunn's) responsibility. As the acting city manager, he has responsibility over the fire department," Acree said.
He was the one that ultimately had to approve the additional expenditure of $40,000, Acree said.
"This particular reporting situation, we have to find a solution to it. I did not know of this, and I don't think the public would have known of this — and that it is going to add to the deficit for our 2013-2014 budget," Acree said.
Acree defended mentioning Craig Dunn's name outside of closed session.
"I wouldn't bring up anyone else's name because the conflict doesn't exist," she said. "The reason this is so important is that the two people are related. The transparency needs to exist with these two people to avoid any perception of any favoritism or nepotism."
Manager: No impact
Toni Benson, the head of the city finance department, said the $40,000 figure was not solely representative of Craig Dunn's moving from per-diem to part time and added it should not affect the city's overall expenditures.
"There really shouldn't be an impact (on the cost to the city). He has, as part time, taken the place of the previous person that was there, who moved up. One person retired, another was pulled up to fill that position, and (Dunn) took the the place of that person who was promoted," Benson said.
She said everything had been transparent and all of this was in the budget, but, she said, the $40,000 figure had not been brought before the council previously.
Marilee Smith, of Smith & Newell Certified Public Accountants, concluded the city's financial statements were accurate in accordance with the financial reporting framework used for the preparation and presentation of such statements.
Smith said the city's operating costs of $1.641 million are 46.6 percent of the city's general fund, far above the 17 percent suggested by the Government Finance Offices Association.
However, the city is running a total deficit of $225,000.
Mayor Greg Ponciano and councilmembers Tom Reische, Dunn, Critchfield and Kelleher voted to approve the revised budget. Acree voted to abstain, saying she did not believe it was an accurate depiction of the city's finances.