Review of bills leads to investigation

By Charles Sercombe

There were no bombshells revealed in Tuesday’s city council discussion on why $56,835 in contractors’ invoices could not be properly documented.

But that doesn’t mean the investigation into why those invoices don’t line up with the contracts of the vendors is over.

The audit report, prepared by Stout Risius Ross, Inc. (SRR) at the prompting of former Acting City Manager Erik Tungate in an effort to find ways to save money, raises far more questions than it answers.

Questions like: Why does the contract with CPI, the company that does street and water main repairs, among other duties, fail to set a price for cutting and capping water lines for commercial buildings?

It turns out the contract spells out what to charge for doing the work for a house, which is $800. But when a mystery bill for $2,100 turned up for the work, no one knew why it was so much more, which also caught the attention of SRR.

Turns out someone indeed knew the answer. Steve Shaya, the Director of Public Services, said it costs more to work on commercial lines, and that $2,100 was a fair price.

So, why doesn’t the contract with the company, which spells out the cost for numerous types of services and repairs, include the special charge for commercial properties?

That remains a mystery.

Tuesday’s meeting ran for nearly three hours as councilmembers heard an overview of how the audit report was completed, and whether there is a need to dig deeper into more invoices.

And there was the question of the night whether any of this amounts to fraud and criminal wrongdoing.
But perhaps the biggest mystery is why no one talked about the contractor who had the bulk of invoices that could not be documented: Platinum, which charged the city $36,602 that cannot be reconciled.

Platinum performs a number of duties, including snowplowing and salting the streets. What’s complicating this matter is that Shaya, the director of Public Works, was once an employee of the company.

He resigned from Platinum to take the director’s job.

At the end of the meeting, the council agreed, except for Councilmember Cathie Gordon, to have Kyle Tertzaj, the assistant to the acting city manager, investigate the bills.

Gordon objected because she did not know enough about Terzaj and has not yet seen his employment contract.

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