From the Edmonds City Council President: Passion should be expected in politics

Diane Buckshnis (Larry Vogel photo)
Diane Buckshnis (Larry Vogel photo)

I have been asked to provide my insights on council-administration interaction issues raised by Roger Neumaier upon his resignation as Finance Director. Actually, I would prefer moving on and am looking forward to a productive year. But given the nature of the concerns, a response seems appropriate.

My involvement in politics has taught me that we can never control what is being said about us or the perception one has regarding our performance. As elected officials to our legislative branch, council has the fiduciary responsibility to be the gate-keepers of the city’s coffers. Council approves budgets, budget amendments, and financial statements/reports. We also need to enact, revise and implement new codes, policies, ordinances and resolutions. Most importantly, providing oversight to these policies is a critical council responsibility.

City officials should expect questioning when items pop up that represent significant change, come as a surprise or do not appear correct.
As a recent example, the 2012 Audited Financial Statements indicated that a $4,965,000 receivable was removed from our city’s books and the offsetting payable was removed from our component unit – PFD (Public Facilities District or mostly known as the Edmonds Center for the Arts). This removal nearly doubled the “apparent” net position (worth) of the PFD, thus changing many ratios, as well as the nature of the obligation.

Upon discovering this change and recognizing the potential seriousness of its implications, I questioned the administration and sought outside opinions from our State Auditor and the technical advisers from the Government Accounting Standard Board (GASB) among others. While the administration may have not agreed to the level of detail or extent of my questioning, in the end hundreds of hours were spent by council, the administration, bond counsels and the Public Facilities District officials in attempting to understand this change.

Based on the feedback received, we now are currently working on restating the financial statements so that we continue reporting the PFD’s payable and the city’s receivable just as we have done for the previous 11 years. It is worth noting that had the proposed change been vetted through council initially, a great deal of time and effort may have been saved. Still, we got it right which is most important to the Edmonds’ taxpayers.

While we have all witnessed a certain level of controversy or stress among councilmembers (amongst ourselves and with administration), compare it to your own passionate family, friends and co-workers. Do you always agree with one another? Now imagine that those disagreements are displayed publicly. Have you ever witnessed a Congressional hearing? No doubt, we’ve all experienced — in hindsight — wishing we said things or approached situations differently. I prefer not to comment about the recent rhetoric that is being promulgated, other than to recognize that everyone has a right to feel the way they do.

Everyone has varied perspectives shaped by their background, education and life experiences. I for one have witnessed a lot since helping reform the banking systems in Lithuania and Kazakhstan, as well as investigating the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s (in which we sent the once-respected financier, Charles Keating, to jail). I don’t know many who can say they had a gun pointed at them while being told to change a financial audit; which I did not change! My point being that, I am not easily deterred when I feel in my heart that the best interests of Edmonds’ citizens are at stake. I’m quite sure that each of my fellow councilmembers feels similarly, despite that we may not always agree on issues. What some may perceive as a robust deliberation or disagreement — others might view as aggressive behaviors. When issues carry significant consequences, passions run deep and sometimes feathers get ruffled. Yet, that doesn’t mean we don’t hold each other in high regard.

Personally, I was sorry to hear of Mr. Neumaier’s resignation. As stated previously, he did a wonderful job with this year’s budget and I felt we were developing a positive rapport that would bode well in the coming years. His resignation was his personal decision. I believe I speak for all councilmembers when I wish him well in his future endeavors. It is also my hope that my fellow councilmembers and I will continue to work pragmatically together this year on behalf of the Edmonds’ community’s interests.

— Diane Buckshnis, President
Edmonds City Council

  1. thank you for being open and honest with Edmonds citizens, and for continuing to ask hard questions about the Budget of Edmonds.

  2. Unfortunately most of the negative comments made behind closed doors get out to the public whether true or not.
    The rumor circulating is that this council is in disarray. When it gets to the level of airing dirty laundry in public,people begin to question the councils competence. It does not matter what anyones credentails are, it his how you interact with others in public and behind closed doors that is the issue here.
    I would say to get back on an even keel the council needs to put a big zipper on it. Family squabbles should stay in the family.
    I applaud Diane for holding firm on the misplaced receivable and knowing enough to stand her ground. Just turn down the volume. The kind of transparency the public is receiving has not been helpful.

  3. Council President Buckshnis;

    Thank you very much for your hard work on our financial issues. Can I ask one question? Do you know why Note 18 to the City’s 2012 Financial Statements does not include any narrative explaining the reason or reasons for the Prior Period Corrections?

    Also, I noticed these are called Prior Period Adjustments in the body of the Financial Statement, as opposed to Prior Period Corrections in the Notes. Probably would be best to be consistent and call it one or the other. Even though the Financial Statement says “the notes to the financial statements are an integral part of the financial statements. They provide additional disclosures essential to a full understanding of the information provided in the government-wide and fund financial statements. The notes to the financial statements immediately follow the basic financial statements in this report.” I noticed Note 18 does not appear in the body of the Financial Statement on page 7 following the adjustment figure including the $4.9 Million. This reporting is irregular compared to the other financial notes that are footnoted in the appropriate locations in the body of the statement. Thanks again.

    1. By recognizing a prior period adjustment at December 31, 2012, the City of Edmonds asserted that the prior year financial statements were materially misstated. When this happens, it is a serious issue. Was the related issue formally written up and presented to the City Council before the prior period adjustment was made? Doesn’t sound like it and now all this will be restated after hundreds of hours of work. Why did this happen?

      Good point about the lack of a narrative explanation of the prior period adjustments/corrections. All we are told is that there was a “Governmental Activity” to “Remove PFD Long-term receivable” of $4,965,000. Seems like a more detailed explanation of this major adjustment would have assisted readers of the City’s Financial Statements.

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