Many Seward area residents and visitors alike may have noticed the City of Seward finance director attacking and libelously accusing me of fraud, both in the Seward Journal and at a Seward City Council meeting last month. I appreciate the Seward Journal giving me an opportunity to respond to these false charges. I’ll try to keep it short.
Let’s start off with the facts; I never committed fraud. These allegations are completely and provably false.
Some quick background for those of you who don’t know me or any readers who happen to be on vacation and reading this (yikes! I’m so sorry!). I worked at City Hall for a long time. I know what goes on there from both sides of the dais and have an understanding of the process from my six years working in city administration.
Last fall I was elected to a seat on the Seward’s City Council. I was excited to be part of a council that helps move Seward forward with accountability, transparency and responsive local government. Unfortunately, much of the time I’ve been on council I have faced the same obstruction and vilification that some of my fellow council members are all too familiar with. The false, slanderous statements made by the finance director are another negative attempt to marginalize me and my effectiveness on council, and thereby quiet the voices and votes of the people of Seward who put me here.
Let’s talk about the truth. It was my experience while working at the city, that former City Manager Jim Hunt transferred most of his duties. It is my belief, and I think the obvious evidence in this situation shows, that the finance director has been largely responsible for day to day operations and management of the City of Seward for some time. The former city manager’s abdication of his duties isolated and protected the finance director from the direction and evaluation of council because, per often over-interpreted city code, council cannot get involved in administrative services.
In my judgment Seward City Council has had an employee operating beyond the reach and direction of the City Council who has been largely managing the city for most of the last 5 years. I believe that this situation has led to many of the personnel issues that resulted in an overwhelming vote to unionize this spring by City of Seward employees, among other things.
Now, years after I left employment at the City of Seward, with an exemplary personnel record that reflects excellent high professional performance standards achieved (including zero write ups and zero complaints filed against me), inexplicably, 11 months into my term on City Council, the finance director wants the public to believe that the same city manager that she praised highly just months ago, was committing fraud with regard to my altered work schedule five years ago.
This argument doesn’t hold up. You can’t have it both ways. Either Hunt was the bee’s knees of municipal management or he committed fraud. Which is it? If I had committed fraud years ago, (which I didn’t) but for the sake of argument, if I had, why wait until now, years later and after I’ve been on council for nearly a year to bring it up? This attempt to malign me and damage my reputation is nothing more than a nasty personal political attack designed to tear me down and give support to Hunt’s faltering recall effort. Clearly none of this stands up to logical scrutiny.
Even with these powerful folks gunning for me, with their money and lawyers and threats I’m not worried for two big reasons. First, I haven’t done anything wrong. I never committed fraud. I don’t scare that easily. Second, I believe that Seward’s people are aware and engaged enough to see this for the nastiness it is, an attempt to undermine and unseat me, the person you elected to represent you.
I call on the subcommittee that Council created this spring to bring action forward to Council for an outside, independent, third party investigation of these and other important issues. I remain convinced that it is the only way to resolve these issues. I’ve no doubt that people are as exhausted as I am by the constant negativity these baseless accusations stir.
I am, as always, happy to discuss with folks the reasons I ran for council and continue to serve even in the face of such malicious slander and obstruction. I serve to help ensure that the taxpayers and rate payers of the City of Seward are protected from potentially expensive liability. The city must treat employees fairly and equitably. And I serve because I believe that affordable, renewable, sustainable energy is possible here and that it’s a goal we should all be moving towards and talking about. That conversation serves the quality of life of the people who live here. I hope to be having it more and more as we move forward. Thank you for reading if you got this far.
Let’s keep looking after each other :)
One love, Seward.