Councillors Vote for State Audit:Waiting to Know Cost Before Approval

The City Council voted by a 10-1 margin that Mayor Bran Arrigo ask State Auditor Suzanne Bump for a cost estimate to conduct a top-to-bottom review for the years 2014 to 2018 of every department at City Hall, excluding the School Department.

All but Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky voted in favor of the motion by Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo whose intention is to bring in the state auditor for the audit. The audit request was made after a report last month revealed a serious decline in funds being generated by the city’s parking meters over the past 24 months.

The Council had originally voted for the audit at a committee of the whole meeting, but at the initial urging of Councillor Anthony Zambuto, it will seek to determine the costs associated with the audit.

Novoselsky estimated that the cost of the audit could be as much as $200,000. “I don’t agree with this, we have our own outside auditors that do as good a job as the state auditor would, and I just don’t think it’s necessary to go through these actions.”

Zambuto stated that he wanted an estimate from the state auditor’s office.

“I don’t know what this is going to cost – I want an estimate,” said Zambuto. “Right now it’s okay, we want to vote for an audit, but we don’t know what it’s going to cost. I can’t do that, but I can certainly do it after I have an estimate.”

Speaking about the matter, Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe said he was dismayed by a Boston newspaper’s front-page story about the parking meter controversy because it cast a negative light on the city.

“This city is doing such great things,” said Keefe. “I don’t care about what [mayoral] administration you’re with. Revere has been on a great roll for many years. I’ve lived here for 15 years and I’m so proud of living in this city.”

Keefe’s forceful message drew applause from the many residents in the audience, as did remarks by Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna calling for unity in Revere (see related story).

Councillor-at-Large Steven Morabito assured Revere residents that the city is “doing everything we can to make sure money is that is spent is legitimate and every department is in line.”

Ward 5 Councillor John Powers noted the ongoing investigation regarding the parking meter receipts and the negative publicity the city is receiving about the matter.

“Every day we’re out here telling people Revere is on the move – we’re building new apartments, new condominiums, we have new hotels coming in. My daughter lives in Medford and about two weeks ago, she said to me, ‘what the heck is going on in that city?’ I think what she inferred by that was something’s wrong in the city. Something may be wrong, but I don’t know that something is wrong. But the more we talk about the FBI, the Department of Justice, and all of these other agencies to look at everybody’s finances, it implies that something is wrong and what does that say to the person who wants to move here and make an investment.”

Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo said the negativity was not the fault of anyone on the City Council.

“I think for us to say, somehow, any of us, including Councillor Rotondo, whose motion this is, is trying to drag the city through the mud, is unfair to him,” said Rizzo. “I think it’s unfair to us. We’re here, whether or not we want to admit it, or say it – we are here for checks and balances. You have an executive branch and you have a legislative branch, and that is what we sit on. I don’t think anyone on this city council notified the press after that meeting [on July 23].”

Rotondo said a state audit would benefit the city and cast Revere in a more positive light.

“The only way to shed that stigma, is to put light on a problem,” said Rotondo. “We found a problem. Eighteen months out of 24, there was no [parking meter] income, there was no execution of law. Now we have an investigation that is 18 months too late. The issue is how do you improve government. How do you provide a clear and concise, delivered message to the city that this city will not tolerate inefficiency, that we are going to make our government better?

“By asking the state auditor to come in and do what they do best,” said Rotondo. “They [the state auditor’s office] can give us a price and we can determine whether or not we’re going to pay for it.”

In a related matter, Rotondo withdrew his motion that the mayor restore the two employees on administrative leave without pay to be paid retroactively until the completion of the investigation in to the Parking Department.

Rotondo said that though he disagrees with Mayor Arrigo’s decision to place the two Parking Department employees on administrative leave without pay, he understands that the mayor has the full authority to make such a decision.

“I withdrew the motion because I understood that the council felt it was a delicate issue,” said Rotondo. “I disagree with the mayor’s decision because everybody is innocent until proven guilty. Yet that’s the authority of the CEO [mayor] and he should have that authority. But I’m part of the checks and balances in the process.”

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