To the Editor:
I’m digesting your March 7 article entitled “DeKalb city manager wants outside review of financial and purchasing policies.” In it, new city manager Anne Marie Gaura revealed misuses of employees’ spending authority and her plans to correct and improve how purchasing and financial reporting are done. It tastes kind of like reform and I like it.
The article also noted the following: “Part of Gaura’s initiative is to assure recommendations from financial consultants are fully disclosed to the City Council, evaluated and considered for implementation.”
Unfortunately, there’s an obstacle to this second goal and it involves the 2013 recommendations made by DeKalb’s contracted financial consultants, Executive Partners, Inc.
EPI, you may remember, was hired to give badly-needed advice on strategic planning by which DeKalb could avoid financial crises in the future. The consultants presented a report to the City Council during a special meeting in June.
However, the city has never made the entire written report available to the public. Officials instead chose to redact sections and even several full pages of the consultants’ analyses and recommendations using Freedom of Information Act exemptions for preliminary drafts and collective bargaining.
Clearly, these exemptions don’t apply to a final commissioned report and they’ve rightly been challenged. But the attorney general’s Public Access Counselor can take many months to decide challenges to exemptions regardless of the degree of folly. What happens when Ms. Gaura pulls the report off the shelf in the meantime? The removals effectively ban council from fully exercising its obligations to consider the recommendations publicly.
If DeKalb is serious about complete disclosure and evaluation of financial recommendations as part of a fresh start headed by its new manager, the officials responsible will reverse last year’s ill-considered default to secrecy and release the entire EPI report now.
Lynn A. Fazekas