By Charles Sercombe
On the way out the door of city hall, former City Manager Katrina Powell took something with her.
A city-issued laptop computer.
She left a check to purchase it for $1,200, and claimed to have city permission to do so. She said Mayor Karen Majewski signed off on the deal. Powell said that City Attorney John Clark also authorized the purchase.
But according to Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer that’s not accurate. She said Clark insists there is no deal for her to purchase it, and that the city does not want to sell it.
The issue came to light at last Tuesday’s regular meeting of the state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board. The board has final authority over all city financial decisions.
Powell, whose last day of employment with the city was June 30, was not on the agenda for the meeting, but she spoke during the public comment portion. She read a prepared statement outlining why the purchase is allowed.
She ultimately asked the RTAB to step in and allow the purchase to go through. Powell also told the RTAB that the city’s IT contractor had archived all of the files – including emails — on the laptop and had then “scrubbed” it of all stored information.
Acting City Manager Angerer told the RTAB the city does not want to sell the laptop, on the advice of the city attorney.
There was also one other snag. Deborah Roberts, the chairman of the RTAB, said there was a requirement made by the former emergency manager that the city come up with a policy on disposing city-owned assets, such as laptop computers.
Angerer told the RTAB that as far as she knows, no such policy exists.
The city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager for 18 months before Powell was hired. Powell was city manager for two-and-a-half years. Her employment contract was not extended by a bare majority of the city council.
It was not immediately known why Powell never addressed creating a policy on disposing city assets.
The RTAB declined to get involved in Powell’s request to purchase the laptop, saying it’s a matter for the city to decide.
After the meeting Powell was handed back her check for $1,200. Powell then turned to city Treasurer Joy Gargano and told her to deposit it. Acting City Manager Angerer interceded and told Powell to not involve Gargano.
As of Thursday, the day The Review went to press, Powell had not yet returned the laptop.
The city is refusing to deposit her check.
Angerer told The Review that she is talking with City Attorney Clark about what steps to take if Powell refuses to return the laptop.
It’s not clear why Powell is going to such lengths to purchase the laptop. As city manager she earned over $100,000 a year, and she also is an owner of a vehicle lease company in Florida, where she came from.
The laptop matter could next go to city council to allow the purchase. But if the council authorizes the purchase, it would still have to be OK’d by the RTAB.