Last Summer’s imbroglio involving the investigation and removal of crooked Councilwoman Judith Green was the occasion for considerable introspective analysis of the spending procedures at Louisville’s Metro Council. As a direct result of this analysis—and to the well-deserved credit of the Council—the city’s legislative body last Thursday evening approved revisions to its operating policies and procedures to improve transparency and accountability. The changes were adopted by unanimous vote.
“With this document, the Council has made significant improvements to the Policies & Procedures that govern how we spend, monitor and account for taxpayer dollars. Our efforts tonight are a culmination of a tough year for the Council, but a year in which we made great strides to ensure transparency and accountability for the future,” said Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh (D-9), chair of the Council’s Government Accountability and Ethics Committee.
“This vote concludes more than a year of work focused on improving oversight of discretionary funds effectively addressing areas where government funding faces constitutional constraints. My hope is that this work will lead to further restrictions regarding funding to nonprofit organizations for nongovernment purposes,” said Councilman Kevin Kramer (R-11), Vice Chair of the Committee.
The policy and procedure changes cover the allocation, reporting and monitoring process of Neighborhood Development Funds (NDF’s). The changes also clarify how individuals Council members use the money to operate their offices better known as Cost Centers.
Within this past year, spending practices became the subject of a series of articles in the Louisville Courier Journal. At the same time, Judith Green was removed from office as District 1 Councilwoman after it was found that the Council’s policies on NDF’s were violated and money was given to at least one organization that had not formally requested the funds.
“This Metro Council, through these changes, has taken responsible action in its review of how we spend tax dollars. Transparency and accountability are key to what we do and the public should know this process of checks and balances are needed for the future when groups come to us asking for assistance,” says Council President Jim King (D-10). “I commend Councilwoman Ward-Pugh and Councilman Kramer for their leadership in moving us forward.”
Late in 2010, then President Tom Owen (D-8) asked the Office of Internal Audit to review cost center spending when questions where first raised about former Councilwoman Green The initial audit report highlighted areas of concern.
President King asked the Government Accountability and Ethics Committee to review the policies and procedures after additional concerns were brought to light in the Green case.
The changes made to our policies and procedures are primarily based on the recommendation from the accounting firm Mountjoy, Chilton and Medley, which reviewed our policies and procedures. These changes, as well as others which bring our procedures in line with practice, with the announcement that the Office for Management and Budget will monitor NDF grants will help to improve accountability and transparency for Metro Funds
Summary of important changes made to the Metro Council Policy and Procedures:
· Annual training of Council staff on policies, periodic review of policies and procedures by Council
· Revised procedures to the NDF applications to include an NDF checklist prior to submitting requests for Council review. Specifically, acknowledgement in the application, proceeds of fundraisers, grantee monitoring, additional disclosures of compensation, and more stringent restrictions on funding organization with a relationship to a council member
· Tightening up the subrecipent pass through procedures for nonprofits acting on behalf of other organizations
· Designation of NDF transfers to Cost Center prior to approval
· Limits the use of Kroger Cards for operational costs of the district offices only and requires a dollar amount limitation.