Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rules Are Rules....Unless You Don't Want To Follow Them

So, a while ago I posted the campaign finance reports that were due July 1st of this year. Silly bloggers like me over analyzed what the reports meant, and there was some interesting email chatter. Everyone who raised or spent money, or had balances in their campaign accounts, reported their dealings. Everyone except Sam Shropshire.

Rather than filing a report, Alderman Sam filed a letter explaining why he didn't file a report. Apparently, his house was flooded on May 13th, preventing him from accessing records. In his letter, he advised that everything should be back to normal shortly, and that we could expect a report to be filed by the end of July. The other day, a friend of mine called to remind me about this. He said he talked to the city clerk, and that as of a couple of days ago, no report had been received from the Honorable Alderman.

(Post Intermission: While we are on the topic of Alderman Sam, allow me to recommend watching the city council meeting on television. Alderman Sam, each and every meeting, looks up at the camera and addresses his loyal subjects, literally saying on the record "For all of you watching on television, rest assured that I am working for you". It's a surreal experience.)

A few questions come to mind:

1. Why does the treasurer not have these records?

2. Why did it take 5 weeks for the "piecing together of records" to get started?

3. Why is there still no report, a month after it was due and almost 3 month after the flood.

4. Why, in the name of at least trying to satisfy the laws which he is sworn to uphold, did Alderman Sam not go to the bank and report how much money is in the account?

Is this upsetting? Yes. Is this inappropriate? About as inappropriate as I was in 7th grade when my first girlfriend ever called me to talk, and within 3o seconds I asked "so why did you call me". But, at the end of the day this matter per se does not matter all that much. Would the other candidates like to know how much money he has? Of course, but it wouldn't change that much for the average person.

The underlying issue is more troubling. The city--specifically the Moyer administration--has a history of following rules selectively, if at all.

Example 1: The Mayor, in a work session, advocated implementing the sidewalk tax even though an advisory opinion from the attorney general deemed it unconstitutional.

Example 2: When the city was sued by police and fire retirees, it lost a statute of limitations argument, then was told in March by the courts exactly how much it had to pay, but still has not paid.

Example 3: In cases where rules must be followed, this administration simply changed the rules. Political appointments are to be expected. But, Mayor Moyer changed the charter to create a new department, which she promptly staffed with a friendly who now makes $100,000+.

Example 4: When the Mayor fired former public works director John Patmore (because Patmore brought up valid concerns that city resources would be stretched for the triathlon), the Mayor replaced him with City Administrator Bob Agee, ignoring the requirement in the code that the DPW Director had to have an engineering degree.

There are other things that I'm certain are against the rules, but I just can't find the rule. Aldermen spend their "education" budgets to travel to sister cities, and Mayoral Candidate Chuck Weikel gets free advertising through the Annapolis 300 program--to name 2.

(Post Intermission II: Isn't it Annapolis 301 by now? Heck, when the Annapolis 300 program began, Mrs. Politics had not even given me her phone number.)

Following minor rules is important because it forecasts how strictly you will follow the important rules. The uncertainty for Annapolitans is which rule will be broken next.

6 comments:

ellis said...

The simplest reply is... Shropshire doesn't get my vote. Following rules and regulations is a fairly simple task.

Furthermore, in the age of technology, I find it hard to believe he can't access his records. I have a tax preparer and I got a copy of my last 3 yrs of tax returns within hours of my request. He can too by going to the IRS or even the HR department of his employer.

And one further point... my uncle's house was under water after Hurrican Katrina. Half of it was destroyed. Within days, we had his house back in shape with no financial help from the gov't. Again, I find it hard to believe that nearly 3 months later, he doesn't have his paperwork in order due to a "flood".

Like I said... simplest reply is, he doesn't get my vote.

zimbabwe oon dabbi said...

are there no consequences for Alderman Sam's actions ?

as a right is not a right without a remedy, a rule is not a rule without consequences.

ellis said...

What are the consequences if the campaign finance reports are not submitted by July 1st?

Obviously, since Sam issued a letter stating why they're not ready, I 'assume' he has been given a limited amount of extra time to submit the reports. How much extra time is reasonable?

Anonymous said...

maybe a matter for the ethics committee. one more thing for them to laugh off, like the conflict of interest cases. rules don't apply in this administration,

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Brian Gill said...

The consequences are so harmless that I'm surprised anybody files on time--all they do is put a notation next to the candidate's name that says "the report was not filed timely." You can see some examples here:

http://www.annapolis.gov/upload/images/government/depts/CityClerk/FundRep2007.pdf

However, the reporting requirements are in the code--just like the residency requirement and the petition requirement for independent candidates. Those last 2 things could certainly disqualify a candidate, so my thought is that if somebody pushed the issues, they might have an argument to nullify the candidacy if a report is filed late.