Legislation creating two new Common Council committees to oversee the City of Olean's spending and hiring was sent out of the City Operations Committee on Tuesday night and will likely be passed next week by the Committee of the Whole.
A proposed seven-member Finance Committee will review the city auditor's monthly and bimonthly reports and keep track of how much money is left in each department's budget. A proposed Employee Vacancy Committee will scrutinize hiring and promotions, part of Mayor David Carucci's duties.
"All of the aldermen will serve on the Finance Committee. It's going to be one of the most important committees of the Council," said Council President Ray Wangelin.
Many of the required financial reports had not been prepared in recent years, and aldermen were uninformed about many fiscal matters.
In December, as a state comptroller's field audit concluded, Auditor Steve Pachla submitted a retirement letter that becomes effective Jan. 31.
Financial management is under the control of former City Auditor Gregg Prockton, and Pachla is doing the bookkeeping until his term is up. City Operations Committee Chairman John Padlo, Ward 7, said the mayor told him that aldermen should get the comptroller's draft report by the end of the week.
Before the vote, the aldermen discussed their determination to obtain a uniform set of details, such as dates and purposes, behind the invoices that are routinely provided for Council authorization.
Alderman Michael Kayes, Ward 2, suggested that any items lacking such information should be stricken from the Council's agenda until it is provided.
The Council has been criticized for not demanding financial background in past years prior to budget passage and other spending decisions. After the meeting, Wangelin said the Council has relied on trust and simply accepted information provided by department heads.
"We can't be trusting any more. If somebody says it is daylight outside, then you'd better look out the window and make sure," he said.
Wangelin named Linda Edstrom, Ward 4, to head both new committees.
As the committee meeting drew to a close, Wangelin hinted that 2007 will see a new openness. He told an audience of about 20 people that anyone with questions about city government should submit them to the Council at future meetings. He said answers will be provided the following week.
Wangelin also issued a list of assignments and meeting times for the Council's 2007 standing committees.
The Public Safety, Youth and Recreation and Employee Position Vacancy committees will meet on the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. The City Operations, Strategic Planning and Finance committees will meet on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.
The Public Safety Committee will be headed by Rick Smith, Ward 6, with Robert LaForge, Ward 1, vice chairman.
The five-member Youth and Recreation Committee will be headed by Chairman Jeffrey Steiner, Ward 5. Padlo will remain chairman of the City Operations Committee. Kayes will head the five-member Strategic Planning Committee.