For almost 15 entire minutes Tuesday night, the unofficial draft of a state comptroller's audit severely critical of Amsterdam's financial quagmire was the topic of conversation during a city Finance Committee meeting.
Rest easy, Rug City taxpayers. Your leaders are all over this one.
The draft report from the state blasts the city for its lack of accurately recorded figures. The report says there is no way to ensure the city can or will continue operations. For the past four years, city officials have been working with inaccurate accounting records to craft budgets. According to auditors, there is no way to determine if all revenues were deposited into city accounts. The list goes on. It's a mess.
And for close to 15 minutes Tuesday night, a portion of the Common Council showed up to discuss the problem. For the better part of a complete quarter of an hour, the ones who made it to the meeting admitted something will eventually have to be done.
The worst city audit in recent memory has thus far resulted in three-fifths of the Common Council meeting publicly for 25 percent of an hour.
The city has 30 days from the time it received the report to issue a response. Some aldermen, believing they need to meet publicly to discuss a response, scheduled Tuesday's meeting. Alderwomen Gina DeRossi (not seeking re-election) and Valerie Beekman (running unopposed) were no-shows. So the meeting was cut short.
Tuesday's most level-headed observation came from 4th Ward Alderman David Dybas: "I have no problem admitting that this council -- me -- didn't do an adequate job and I would hope others would come to that conclusion, too. That's what this report says. We failed to do our jobs." Dybas crafted a list of suggestions for beginning to straighten out the mess.
Mayor Ann Thane, for her part, has written a letter pointing blame in more directions than she has fingers to point with: The accounting software was problematic. A former controller was not re-elected. The controller who was elected wasn't computer savvy. Also, he died. Someone else in the office went off and found another job. The voters wouldn't agree to eliminate the elected controller position.
The dog ate my ledger book.
How about this: We failed miserably. And the responsibility begins at the very top. Now here's the plan for making things better.
How about something like that?
When you have the time.