No one could blame residents, taxpayers and electric ratepayers of Seward for being super distracted the last few months. With the onset of COVID-19, many local businesses and employees are left struggling to find new footing on uncertain terrain. But Seward Electric Utility ratepayers should be paying special attention to recent goings-on at City Hall where administration seems to have fully backslid into old unhealthy, non-transparent habits.
This year started with a huge amount of promise for financial transparency with the hiring of a new finance director (FD), who is a trained professional CPA. Ms. Stromberg appears to be exactly what the City of Seward needs in a finance director. Sadly, Sewardites learned that Ms. Stromberg was abruptly fired by the current city manager for “personal reasons” the week of April 27. Local reformers had been particularly optimistic about this year's audit under Ms. Stromberg’s leadership because a new auditing firm has been contracted, meaning that for the first time nearly two decades Seward would have fresh, experienced leadership and a new auditing firm for the annual audit. The outlook for accountability was bright. Sadly, that outlook is now stormy and cloudy. Have we returned to the days when only a select few have access to important appointed officials and/or financial information from City Hall? Ms. Stromberg’s recent termination from employment suggests that we have.
There are many troubling issues that have come up this year, but largest among them remains that Seward city council continues to receive advice and even direction from the same attorney (Wells) who is still currently being paid to counsel the former administration and FD of Seward in a neighboring community and is also giving counsel on proceeding with the termination of our current FD. This does not look good.
Another concern and potential liability to the city is the inconsistent information provided in public records requests in comparison of last year with past administration versus those provided this year with our new administration. Those numbers should not change.
The public has been patient and hopeful that a new mayor and council would hire a new attorney and begin holding their employee, the city manager, accountable. This latest firing does not bode well.
Seward deserves better than division and obfuscation. Problems persist in the electric department and in personnel issues city-wide. Ms. Stromberg should be reinstated and be given full support of the council to complete the job she was hired to do. Seward City Council should direct the city manager to do so, and City Council should hold their employee accountable for the decisions he makes because those decisions affect all of us as well as the local utility rates.
Please write to your council members and express your frustration that they continue to accept mismanagement at City Hall. Let Ms. Stromberg complete the job she was hired to do.
Recently, the council was flooded with letters and citizens speaking out against moral issues of a crosswalk and wearing masks. Council took the necessary actions based on the citizens outcry. Council members will not vote to make changes until the people speak. YOUR VOICE MATTERS! It is time we unite and care how our City is being run and send emails to ALL council members to let them know it is time Seward operates professionally for the people!
You can write your letters to: Clerk@cityofseward.net and ask your letter be forwarded to all council members. We truly are all in this together.