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Quincy councilor tables debates on land purchases, City Council oversight

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 11, 2012 02:22 PM

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Issues involving the land purchase procedures by the city of Quincy and councilor oversight will wait another two weeks after discussion on the issues was tabled at Monday night’s meeting.

Representatives from the Quincy mayor’s office, including City Solicitor Jim Timmins and Director of Municipal Finance Mark Cavanagh, were on hand to speak about the issues when Councilor Joseph Finn objected to discussing either the purchase of Furnace Avenue property and an update regarding an auditing letter from Powers & Sullivan.

Both items have been a hot topic of debate between some councilors and city officials over the summer, with councilors criticizing officials in the mayor’s office for not being transparent.

In July, the issue surfaced over an auditing letter the city had received in January 2012 that was never shared with the council. The letter detailed accounting practices in the city and listed the progress and weaknesses therein.

Issues again were brought up in August after the city purchased two parcels of land in West Quincy for a flood mitigation project that some councilors said they had never approved.

Funding for the purchase came from a $25.4 million Capital Improvement Bond that was to pay for flood mitigation projects, roofing repair, and renovations throughout the city.

According to Finn, Monday’s discussions would not have focused on the crux of the issues at hand, and several key players in the discussion were not present.

“It’s about the process and procedure in terms of how the city purchases real property. I don’t need an apologetic on flood control,” Finn said after the meeting. “We want to make certain that this is a lengthy and long conversation related to that specific purchase [on Furnace Avenue] and how it managed to go without the explicit consideration by this body … I’m hoping we can get through that through various finance committees.”

Finn also said he hopes to structure some time to discuss the management letter and the problems pointed out in that document.

The objections, a tool listed under council rules allowing councilors to end debate on a subject that is to be introduced and voted on in one meeting, instantly ended discussion on both topics.

The items were referred to several committees to be discussed at length at a later date.

The tabled discussion was frustrating for Timmins, who said he was dismayed by the course the evening took.

“I came here tonight to explain, but they don’t want to engage in the discussion. I don’t know what to think about this. It’s dismaying for a couple city councilors to raise questions that challenge the integrity of a process that occurred in their body, in their chamber, and know the integrity of the city government and not allow for a quick response,” Timmins said. “I was fully prepared and talked to the mayor about it. It’s regrettable that the actions of a few councilors impeded that presentation.”

As for the discussion on whether the council had approved the land purchase recently made by the city, Timmins said that language in the bond, which was approved by the council, explicitly authorizes the mayor to “take any action” to get projects within the Capital Improvement Plan done, and frees the mayor from needing additional approvals from the council.

“If they want greater oversight, or input, they shouldn’t draft orders like this, or discuss projects and nod their heads when people are saying we’re going to do this project and this,” Timmins said after the meeting. “The notion that anyone is trying to keep anything from anybody…we’re just trying to move the ball down the field.”

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