2019 Huntersville Candidate Questionnaires – Stacy Phillips

I emailed the following questionnaire to every town board candidate in Huntersville a month ago in an effort to provide voters with more insight into each candidacy. There was no word limit for responses. Only three candidates returned the questionnaire by Friday’s deadline (and one late entry from Mayor Aneralla): Dan Boone, Stacy Phillips, and Brian Hines. I am definitely not an undecided voter and there’s little doubt which candidates I could or do support, but this questionnaire was intended to benefit the hundreds of other voters in the Huntersville Politics group who are still undecided and who don’t know the candidates/issues as well, so it’s disappointing more candidates didn’t participate.

Election day is Tuesday, November 5. If you need more information about local elections, you can visit the Mecklenburg Board of Elections website here.

Eric


– A specific agenda item you want to work on if elected:  We need a magistrate in Huntersville.  Our town has over 56,000 residents and growing. It is almost a 16-mile drive one way from the Huntersville Police Department to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse where our magistrates are housed. Our law enforcements’ time matters. A domestic violence victim’s time matters. By having a Magistrate in Huntersville, it will help keep our town safer.

 

– For challengers – one specific vote over the last two years you disagreed with and why:  “Town of Huntersville Public Records Fee” was on the 9/16/19 agenda. After backlash from the public who thought it was terrible to charge citizens a fee for public records, the item was removed from the agenda and never discussed. While it felt like a small victory for transparency, I wish this measure had been voted upon so we knew where the commissioners stood. After the new board is sworn in, this measure could resurface and infringe on our rights. If I am elected I would always oppose such measures.

 

– What is the proper role of town government and do you think there is any limit to what town government can use taxpayer dollars for:  The proper role of town government is to help the town run smoother and stay the course of long term success. I believe that the town government should be a good steward of tax dollars and be cautious and mindful how money is spent, because it belongs to the citizens.

 

– If not running on an anti-growth platform, how do you plan to deal with growth challenges if elected?:  Huntersville is growing and will continue to grow.  We need to be focused on being a town that is a great place to live and work and avoid becoming a commuter town where people live here, but shop and work in other towns.  Huntersville needs to be proactive in being business friendly, but not just to large corporations, we need to treat small businesses with as much enthusiasm as the big companies, because this will help Huntersville keep its charm.

 

– Should town government select winners and losers in business by providing tax incentives/tax rebates to certain companies over others:  Absolutely not. As I mentioned above, we need to treat small businesses as well as we treat the large companies. Instead of providing tax incentives, we should streamline the planning process, which would save companies (large or small) money and help them reach their goals quicker. 

 

– Are you hoping to benefit yourself personally if elected? If yes, explain. If no, one example of prioritizing Huntersville over your own self-interests:  If elected I must bring on help at my business to cover the hours I can’t work and take a loss in getting paid myself. However, I love this town and I want to ensure that we go the right path so citizens don’t get priced out of living here and all citizens know that they have an ear that will truly listen and fight for them.

 

– If elected, is it more important to you to vote the will of the people (however that is determined) or to vote your conscience (except when the board is acting as a quasi-judicial body):  I think it’s more important to do both. However, I would never take any vote lightly, never dismiss the input of citizens, and would always put Huntersville first. 

 

– Does the town need to do more to ensure transparency and accountability in its departments, including the use of independent, professional audits?:  A happy government is a transparent government. I don’t think audits are a bad thing and I see them as a way to build a trusting relationship between the citizens and government, while we can also hone our budget needs and remediate any issues that may service. 

 

– Do you support the public education status quo in Huntersville?:  I support children getting whatever options best fit their educational needs.  I don’t think it is the place of the government to dictate to a parent/guardian what is best for their child, especially when it comes to something as critical as their education, because that will shape the child’s life forever.  I am open to all options out there that give children the best education they deserve, because educational needs are not a “one size fits all” situation.

 

– Cats or Dogs (or Chickens)?:  I have all three.  I am not picking sides on this one. 

 

– Best place to get pizza in or around Huntersville:  Mama’s eggplant parm pizza is amazing.  Rocky’s has the best cheese pizza.  Romanello’s chicken ranch is great.  I think Huntersville might be on our way to being a pizza destination.

 

– Your favorite 19th century French political economist:  Bastiat?

 

– Person/group most responsible for influencing your political views?:  Mister Rogers.  Which probably just got some major eye rolls, but in all seriousness, I live my life trying to be the neighbor Mister Rogers wanted me to be.  I believe if we can respect those that are different from us and listen to each other, we can actually accomplish a lot for our community.  It comes down to caring about the people in the community and doing what is best for our neighbors above anything else.

 

– How can readers find out more about your campaign? (social media, website)?:

Facebook.com/ElectStacyPhillips

www.electstacyphillips.com

2019 Huntersville Candidate Questionnaires – Dan Boone

I emailed the following questionnaire to every town board candidate in Huntersville a month ago in an effort to provide voters with more insight into each candidacy. There was no word limit for responses. Only three candidates returned the questionnaire by Friday’s deadline: Dan Boone, Stacy Phillips, and Brian Hines. I am definitely not an undecided voter and there’s little doubt which candidates I could or do support, but this questionnaire was intended to benefit the hundreds of other voters in the Huntersville Politics group who are still undecided and who don’t know the candidates/issues as well, so it’s disappointing more candidates didn’t participate.

Election day is Tuesday, November 5. If you need more information about local elections, you can visit the Mecklenburg Board of Elections website here.

Eric


– A specific agenda item you want to work on if elected:

 

– For incumbents – any vote over the last two years you would change and why – or, if none, any item you wish you the board would have accomplished and why:  I voted against district representation and term limits, because I am strongly opposed to district representation and believe it would pit different areas of our town against each other. It was a tough vote because I am a proponent of term limits. I wish this had been broken up into two different motions so we would have had the opportunity to cast an up or down vote on term limits. I will continue to work to implement term limits at the town level.

 

– What is the proper role of town government and do you think there is any limit to what town government can use taxpayer dollars for:  North Carolina is a Dillon Rule state which means the role of Huntersville’s town government (and the role of all town governments in NC) and what town government can use taxpayer dollars for is already defined and limited by state law. We may only take on the roles and powers and perform tasks expressly granted to us by state law or “fairly implied by the expressed power in the statute.”  Key roles granted to municipalities include public safety (police and fire protection, etc.), providing certain services to citizens such as trash pick-up, building and maintaining town streets and roads, planning and zoning, enacting local ordinances to protect the public good as long as they do not conflict with state law, providing parks and recreational opportunities for residents, and the ability to levy certain taxes and fees on citizens to pay for the roles we fill. I believe that we should closely adhere to Dillon’s rule and to state law. It is a much-needed limitation on the powers of local government.

 

– If you are running on an anti-growth platform, how do you intend to legally halt or slow down growth in Huntersville? Be specific.:  I am not running on an anti-growth platform.

 

– If not running on an anti-growth platform, how do you plan to deal with growth challenges if elected?  I will continue to carefully enforce our existing planning and zoning regulations as well as take more actions to ensure that developers are required to do more to mitigate the challenges growth brings to our town (like we did when we changed the Traffic Impact Analysis ordinance). I will also continue to listen carefully to the concerns of all residents and businesses and respond to those concerns. Huntersville will continue to grow but it must do so in way that is planned, responsible and doesn’t reduce the high quality of life we enjoy here.

 

– Should town government select winners and losers in business by providing tax incentives/tax rebates to certain companies over others?:  I personally strongly dislike tax incentives and wish that no one is allowed to use them. I do not believe that town government should be in the business of selecting winners and losers. Incentives also take tax dollars from our small businesses and give them to big businesses that compete directly with our small businesses. This is fundamentally unfair. That is why I have consistently voted against all incentives during my tenure as a Town Commissioner.

I believe that we should focus just as much on creating a business-friendly atmosphere that encourages our existing businesses to expand, grow and create jobs as we do on recruiting new business to town. We can do this by continuing to eliminate overly burdensome regulations, keeping our tax rate low, tackling the traffic challenges we face, keeping our community safe, and ensuring the infrastructure is in place to support their growth and expansion.

 

– Are you hoping to benefit yourself personally if elected? If yes, explain. If no, one example of prioritizing Huntersville over your own self-interests:  I am not hoping to benefit personally if elected. I am retired and view serving on this board as an opportunity to give back to a community that has given so much to me and is so special to me. As a board member, I do not look at issues in context of what is best for me, but in the context of what is morally right and what is best for our town and its residents as a whole. I prioritize Huntersville over my own self-interest by freely volunteering to serve our town on various boards and through various civic, charitable, and religious organizations.

 

– If elected, is it more important to you to vote the will of the people (however that is determined) or to vote your conscience (except when the board is acting as a quasi-judicial body):  I believe that I was elected to represent the citizens of Huntersville and that I work for them. They are my bosses. Whenever the will of the people is not in conflict with my conscience then I will vote the will of the people. When the will of the people conflicts with my conscience, I will explain to our citizens the concerns I have and work to try to come up with a solution or compromise that can reconcile the will of the people with my conscience? If that is not possible then I will follow my conscience and do what I believe is right for our town and its citizens.

 

– Does the town need to do more to ensure transparency and accountability in its departments, including the use of independent, professional audits?:  Yes, I believe more transparency and accountability is important at all levels of government which is why during my four years as a town commissioner I’ve worked hard to make town government more transparent.

 

– Do you support the public education status quo in Huntersville?:  I do not support the public education status quo in Huntersville. I was a strong supporter of a possible municipal charter school. We need to have this option in the town’s tool box to help protect over crowding in CMS schools.

 

– Cats or Dogs (or Chickens)?:  Dogs, especially my campaign mascot Max.

 

– Best place to get pizza in or around Huntersville:  My refrigerator!  I love day old left over pizza.

 

– Your favorite 19th century French political economist: Frederic Bastiat for his developing the concept of opportunity cost, for his pamphlet The Law, and for providing the economic beliefs and theories that serve as the foundation for the Austrian school of economics.

 

– Person/group most responsible for influencing your political views?:  My parents influenced my political views.  From my Mother, “we don’t unwrap gifts unless they are paid for.”  From my Father, “you might not respect the man, but you will respect the rank.”

 

– How can readers find out more about your campaign? (social media, website)?

www.BooneForHuntersville.com

www.facebook.com/DanBooneHuntersville

Email me at: danboonenc@aol.com

HPD Chief Openly Defies Town Manager

Over the past weekend I saw that the Huntersville Police Department (“HPD”) was yet again using town resources to promote a private business – this time, HPD is promoting an Arizona based security company, The Knox Company, that sells rapid entry security boxes (a little safe that holds keys that only fire/police are supposed to be able to access so they don’t have to break your door down in case of an emergency) for the exterior of homes and businesses. The promotion can be found at the bottom of a registration page for an upcoming active shooter training HPD is hosting. I sent an email Saturday morning to the town manager and HPD Chief Bence Hoyle pointing out that HPD is yet again using town resources to promote a private business even after the town manager had emailed a Manager’s Directive to all town employees just two months ago on June 10 (after it was brought to the town manager’s attention that HPD was promoting a local gym and hosting a local CPA at HPD HQ for a seminar) telling all town employees to stop independently promoting private businesses using town resources unless such a promotion/advertisement had been referred to HR first so a bid process or request for proposals could be initiated related to the service or product.

Below is the email response I received from Chief Hoyle at 1:14 AM (yes, AM) Sunday morning.

I authorized it and have advised them to continue. It saves lives by allowing first responders to get into a dwelling faster. We have specific keys to those boxes and when we see those boxes we know how to get in without destroying things. CMPD, Huntersville Fire, and CMS use them as well. 

We partner with many vendors to improve lives and yes it is profitable for some Im sure. But we cannot work without our partners and we will continue to do so. We have stopped promoting golf tournaments because you didnt like it even though they were NOT for profit, and we will jump through hoops for partners that may only benefit a few, but when it comes to saving lives we will partner without hesitation. Citizens have a choice to use them or not, but you cannot expect an public private partnership to be one sided. Sue us and let the courts decide but i think it legal, justified, and a good thing for the community. 

The chief’s email speaks for itself, but I have a few thoughts.

His response not only makes clear he authorized the promotion of a private company in violation of the town manager’s directive, but that he intends to continue to do so in the future without hesitation when it comes to saving lives. (The chief provides no evidence of any lives in Huntersville being saved by a Knox product or any similar product.) This level of open defiance of a superior’s orders would never be tolerated if a lower ranking HPD officer or subordinate town staff member did the same thing. But, the chief is able to get away with such insubordination because he is an unelected bureaucrat with no fear of being disciplined because of his long-standing relationship with the town manager.

The chief’s citing of other agencies that use this product has nothing to do with his direct violation of the town manager’s directive. I didn’t question the use of this product in my email, I simply pointed out that promoting the product using town resources was wrong. This product is not unique – a quick online search for “commercial key box” brings up numerous other similar products designed by many of the top security brands in the country, many of which are far less expensive than the Knox version, so how did HPD decide to promote this brand over all others? (The models being pushed by HPD are between approx. $250-$320.) I shouldn’t have to point out to the chief that just because other agencies do something, doesn’t mean HPD needs to do it too – if CMPD jumped off an I-77 overpass would HPD jump off an overpass too?? Funny thing, he doesn’t list Cornelius PD as another agency using this product even though he was the chief there for over a decade.

The chief failed to provide any details about who else HPD partners with “to improve lives” and who is it profitable for and how much profit is being made, but this is information the town manager and town board should require the chief provide. Again, I didn’t question the practice of partnerships that work to reduce crime in Huntersville, I questioned the practice of using taxpayer resources to show preferential treatment by actively promoting specific private businesses to the exclusion of all others in violation of the town manager’s directive.

No, chief, HPD didn’t stop using HPD email to promote golf tournaments because I didn’t like it – the practice was stopped for two reasons: a) it was just plain wrong to use town resources to promote a golf tournament that was in no way related to Huntersville or HPD with an entry fee of $175 and no details on where the money goes, and b) the officer responsible for promoting said golf tournaments who is also a member of a NC LLC that runs a weekly cash golf league at Birkdale recently “resigned” from HPD and I’m guessing the rest of your officers have actual police work to keep them busy while on duty instead of sending emails about golf.

New chief, same as the old chief. Still hiding behind “saving lives” as a blanket justification for any action/expenditure without any evidence of any lives being saved by whatever action/expenditure is being pushed. No different than the prior chief using the same justification to waste taxpayer dollars on an armored vehicle that sits in a storage bay all year until it gets brought out for display only at National Night Out and a handful of other public events.

Maybe someone can help explain to me why exactly the town manager had to have this one individual as his chief of police and couldn’t even be bothered to do a national search, much less a regional search, for a new chief? Do the town manager and town board support our chief of police telling a resident asking a reasonable question about a town department openly violating a directive from the town manager to “sue us and let the courts decide?” Apparently so because not a word of protest was uttered by anyone at the dais Monday night even though they were all included on the entire email chain. It’s election season so I expect even less out of our local politicians than usual – it’s much easier to take that $1,000 campaign contribution from the SSPBA to keep quiet about problems at HPD than to actually take a stand for what’s right.

Huntersville deserves better. #AuditHPD.

Eric

 

HPD Officer Fails To Meet The New Standard Of Excellence

When is the town going to finally require a full, independent audit of the Huntersville Police Department? Why is a majority on the current town board not interested in verifying how the largest town department spends $13 MILLION of taxpayer dollars? HPD “surplus” equipment just floating around the internet for sale (just because a former town manager steals property from the taxpayers and “gives” it to you doesn’t make it any less stolen property) – no big deal, no need to ensure an accurate inventory, not like HPD keeps anything valuable or dangerous in their taxpayer paid-for inventory. Almost $700K in HPD “contract services” not broken out by line item in yet another budget, but the town board will go ahead and vote again to approve a budget Monday night that is less than transparent. When are the politicians (and candidates) in Huntersville going to stop worrying about what the SSPBA might say about them and instead start worrying about ensuring all HPD officers are held to the same standard and that all HPD policies and town personnel policies apply equally to every officer? Guess those $1,000 contributions the SSPBA hand out matter more than doing the right thing. How much did HPD screwing over the K9 officer cost Huntersville taxpayers and when is someone going to be held accountable for that situation? All that to say, why am I still wasting time writing all of these articles when nothing ever seems to change?

Last week I promised an answer to the question what a moving van, a local golf league, and the CMS Police Dept. have in common. In case the answer wasn’t obvious, it’s newly re-hired HPD Officer Tom Seifert (probably obvious to everyone except the HPD officer(s) responsible for investigating the recent “armed robbery” in the Stephens Grove neighborhood since it’s been two weeks now and there still isn’t any evidence any “armed robbery” took place but apparently the responsible officer(s) thinks it’s ok to allow neighbors to continue to worry about an armed robber on the loose… But I digress.).

According to HPD’s new standard of excellence, a single alleged violation of the town’s personnel policy or HPD policy is enough to justify disciplinary action against a long-time officer with no history of complaints or reprimands. Based on conversations with multiple HPD sources, Ofc. Seifert has used on-duty officers to perform personal tasks on multiple occasions, including as a moving crew for both himself and Lt. Latza and as bank-runners to make deposits at a local bank for the weekly golf league he helps to run at Birkdale. If using town equipment to promote a golf tournament unrelated to the town or HPD isn’t a possible violation of any town or HPD policy, surely using on-duty officers to perform personal tasks is worthy of investigation to determine if any town or HPD policies were violated by Ofc. Seifert or any other HPD officer who knew about or approved such activities. The new standard of excellence must be upheld!

HPD sources have told me that during Ofc. Seifert’s prior stint with HPD before leaving for the Mecklenburg Co. Sheriff’s Office he used on-duty officers he supervised at least twice as a moving crew. According to one source, Ofc. Seifert called him a few years back prior to his shift and advised him to wear shorts and a t-shirt to work the next day because he was going to be helping someone move. That someone ended up being Lt. Bryan Latza and on-duty HPD officers helped with his move from Cornelius to Huntersville (or possibly right across the Concord line since the move was a few years ago and the source recalled it being somewhere in the vicinity of Poplar Tent Rd.). Another source confirmed a similar experience when he, along with at least three other officers, helped Ofc. Seifert move a large amount of furniture from his house in Huntersville to his current house in Lincoln County. All while on the clock getting paid. Allegedly. Of course, nothing wrong with using your work pals to help you move, but us regular folks have to wait until after work or on the weekends for this kind of help. Must be nice to have taxpayers help defray your moving expenses. Allegedly.

In addition to using on-duty officers as movers, a source stated that on multiple occasions over the past few years Ofc. Seifert required them to perform personal tasks related to the “Birkdale Golf League.” What is the Birkdale Golf League? Based on its website, it appears to be an informal weekly golf league sponsored by Hickory Tavern and presented by Crossover Sports played at the Birkdale Golf Course in Huntersville and that requires an $80 league fee payable to Crossover Sports along with weekly fees to be paid in cash at the registration table prior to play for the evening. If you have any questions about the league rules or information about the league, you’re directed to contact Tom Seifert at a cell number or crossoversportsonline.com email address. And what is Crossover Sports? According to the NC Secretary of State’s website, it’s an LLC organized in 2006 for “promotions and online sports marketing” with three members listed on its most recent Annual Report – one of whom is Ofc. Seifert (although Seifert’s name doesn’t appear on the LLC documents until the 2011 Annual Report).

Multiple sources confirmed Ofc. Seifert spends a large amount of time during the work week doing work related to the Birkdale Golf League (I’m still waiting on a pending records request to confirm this information.). One source stated, “It was a running joke between some of us whenever we saw the Sergeant [Seifert] working on his laptop we knew we wouldn’t be getting much help from him until the golf scores were entered.” Another source told me Ofc. Seifert directed them to make deposits for him at a local bank (possibly the Suntrust at Sam Furr and Hwy 21, but the source couldn’t confirm, just that it was near the library around the Sam Furr/Hwy 21 intersection) while on duty on at least 5-10 occasions over the past few years and told me these deposits – which always reportedly contained “stacks of cash” – were related to the golf league based on the deposit slips that were always filled out by Ofc. Seifert. The same source also said they had observed Ofc. Seifert frequently using a subordinate to make golf league “score sheets” while on duty for the various weekly pairings. Allegedly.

Of course, nothing wrong with a group of buddies from all over the North Mecklenburg area getting together on a Thursday evening for some socializing and a round of golf in a cash league run by an LLC with an HPD officer as a member of the LLC and primary organizer of the weekly golf league. But, seems to me certain sections of the town’s personnel policy or a few HPD policies like Directive 1.40 might say otherwise.

Oh, and the CMS Police reference, that’s where Ofc. Seifert is interested in working next according to a source who told me they were contacted by a friend at the CMS Police Dept. asking about their experience with Ofc. Seifert at HPD. Of course, nothing wrong with someone trying to better themselves with a new job opportunity, but I thought the town board had fixed all the issues with officer retention after the pay raise they gave HPD last year? If so, why do we still have experienced officers seeking employment with other law enforcement agencies?

Now all we need is a brave officer to formally complain about any of the above and maybe we’ll see some changes. Maybe even the same brave officer who found the bravery to complain about the K9 officer a few weeks after his allegedly discriminatory remark might find the same bravery to complain about any of the above? I’m sure ISS would be perfectly willing to take more taxpayer money to investigate yet another situation at HPD.

Like I wrote last week, this isn’t rocket science folks. When people are held to different standards, morale suffers. How many patrol officers get to use other on-duty officers as a moving crew or run their side gigs on company time without fear of being disciplined? How many supervisors know or should know about personal work being done on company time or town equipment being used for personal business, or officers being used for personal benefit or for outside employment, or ongoing violations of town or HPD policies, or clear conflicts of interest, or otherwise failing to meet the new HPD standard of excellence, but are choosing to remain silent?

As always, if you have information you would like to share your privacy will be protected. For example, information like credit cards that are issued to supervisors being used to purchase SWAT equipment and other items outside of the normal budget process? I’d really be interested in learning more about that program.

Eric

Holding HPD Accountable To Their New Standard Of Excellence

There’s a new chief at the Huntersville Police Department and he’s enforcing a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to actual violations (or even just alleged violations that are used as a pretext to get rid of someone…) of HPD policy or the town’s personnel policy. I applaud the new standard of excellence being enforced at HPD and look forward to the chief fairly and objectively applying this standard across the department. If a single alleged violation of the town’s personnel policy is enough to justify disciplinary action and removal of a long-time officer with no history of complaints or reprimands, then surely a decade-long involvement by an HPD officer with a company separate and apart from HPD might possibly warrant some investigation into whether any violations of HPD policy or the town’s personnel policy have ever occurred, right? But more on Crossover Sports, LLC in the next article…

HPD Officer Tom Seifert was recently re-hired by the town back in December after a stint with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. According to HPD sources, Officer Seifert sent an email on or about May 1, 2019 to “HPD All Employees” using his town email account promoting the “42nd Annual NC Law Enforcement Open” golf tournament (an annual event that appears to rotate throughout the state) to be held August 12, 13, and 14, 2019 at Cowan’s Ford Golf Course. August 12, 13, and 14 are weekdays.

According to the promotional materials attached to the email, this golf tournament is not advertised as being sponsored by HPD or limited to HPD personnel, nor is it advertised as benefiting the town or HPD in any way. So why is town equipment being put to personal use to advertise an event not related to town business and that could advance the financial or other private interest of themselves or others?

The entry fee for this tournament is listed as $175 (limited to the first 120 paid entrants – for a total of $21,000 in entry fees), which includes golf, on course beverages and snacks, a goody bag, and entry to a “Hospitality Room” at the Four Points by Sheraton on Northcross Dr. in Huntersville open each night at 6:30 with food and beverages provided by the tournament. Sounds like quite a deal for $175!

The tournament entry form states that questions or comments regarding the event can be directed to Officer Seifert at either his huntersville.org email address or the only phone number he lists on the HPD Phone List.

What’s not clear from the golf tournament promotional materials is where the money goes. Checks can be made out to the “42nd NC LEO” and mailed to a residential address in Stanley, NC. There is no website listed for this “42nd NC LEO” group found on the promotional materials and no corporate entity with a similar name was located based on a search online or at the Secretary of State’s website. There is a public facebook group – North Carolina Law Enforcement Annual Golf Tournament – listed on the promotional materials, but there is no additional website or organizational information at the facebook page. But, there is a nice photo of Officer Seifert holding his Overall Champion trophy from the “40th Annual NC Law Enforcement Open” golf tournament. Guess we all know who the best golfer at HPD is!

$21,000 is just the money raised from entry fees, but there are also sponsorship opportunities advertised up to $1,000 to be a sponsor for the Awards Banquet, along with a request from members of the community for donations. The promotional materials only state that any “unused” portion of the donations will be donated to two named charities – but what about the “used” portion of the fees and remainder of the donations and sponsorship monies, where does that money go?

I’m confident this annual golf tournament is a wonderful opportunity for law enforcement and emergency personnel statewide to come together on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday during the work week for some fun times on the golf course (and at the Sheraton Hospitality Room each night!) and surely some of the “unused” portion of the donations do indeed go to wonderful causes and charities. But, organizing a golf tournament of this size definitely requires a large time commitment. If Officer Seifert has already used town equipment at least once on May 1 to advertise an event not related to town business and that could advance the financial or other private interest of himself or others, is it possible he’s used town equipment for similar reasons before or after that date? Let’s hope not because under the new standard of excellence at HPD even a single actual (or alleged) violation of HPD policy or the town’s personnel policy could result in immediate disciplinary measures.

This isn’t rocket science folks. When people are held to different standards, morale suffers. Another pay raise band-aid isn’t going to fix this problem.

Check back next week for part 2 to find out what a moving van, a local golf league, and the CMS Police Dept. have in common.

Eric

Still No Transparency Or Accountability For HFD, Inc.

Another town budget will be voted on next month and based on the recent presentation by Chief Dotoli it seems obvious the town board and town manager intend to continue to give Huntersville Fire Department, Inc. a pass on transparency and accountability. HFD, Inc. is only asking for a mere $4.4 million from Huntersville taxpayers in the FY 19/20 budget, a 12.3% increase over their budget last year, so what’s the big deal if taxpayers have almost no control over how and where that $4.4 million is spent. And just a reminder that HFD, Inc. is not actually a department of the town, but a non-profit corporation that contracts with Huntersville to provide fire, rescue, and other emergency services.

Every year various “external agencies” request monies from taxpayers for their specific organization/cause – often a charitable cause. [You may recall the prior town board approved new guidelines for appropriating monies to external agencies.] In this FY 19/20 budget, $4,664,103 is being requested by external agencies with the overwhelming majority, $4.4 million, being requested by HFD, Inc. At the town board pre-meeting on April 1, the town board heard from some of the external agencies requesting money from taxpayers in this year’s budget. The four groups besides HFD, Inc. that sent speakers to the April 1 pre-meeting represent a total budget request of $54K (Crime Stoppers $2K, Hugh Torance $12K, Ada Jenkins $20K, and Latta Plantation $20K) so it made total sense to give these four groups the majority of the 60 minute pre-meeting while only requiring HFD, Inc. Chief Dotoli spend approx. 18 minutes at the podium to justify his group’s $4.4 million request.

It’s an election year so I know nothing I write is going to change how this board operates when it comes to oversight of the HFD, Inc. budget because politicians care more about counting votes than doing the right thing, but here are a few questions nonetheless.

The HFD, Inc. FY 19/20 budget presentation is included below for reference. Feel free to submit your own questions after you’ve reviewed the budget presentation.

  • 18 minutes? Seriously, that’s all the time the town board can find to question anyone from HFD, Inc. about their $4.4 million budget request??
  • Why did the HFD, Inc. budget presentation not break down calls by station? (i.e., How many fewer calls did Station 3 run compared to every other Station?)
  • Why is the town board and town manager STILL allowing HFD, Inc. to conduct a search for land for another new station after the debacle surrounding the site selection for Station 3? Huntersville taxpayers cannot afford another $3.5 million mistake like Station 3 that came about after a prior town board in 2008 neglected to question the circumstances around its site selection.
  • Why does Huntersville even need a Station 5 when Davidson’s new Station 2 is right across Hwy 73 in the general area where HFD, Inc. is claiming to be searching for land for a new station? Why hasn’t the town explored options to contract with Davidson Fire for coverage of the northeastern area of Huntersville?
  • Why is Chief Dotoli having lunch with someone from MEDIC to discuss medical calls? Didn’t Huntersville just abandon the North Meck Rescue Squad because HFD, Inc. was going to handle all medical calls and all fire calls and save the town money in the process?
  • Why hasn’t the town put the fire services contract out for competitive bid yet?
  • Why have there been no efforts to renegotiate the current fire services contract with HFD, Inc. to include greater transparency and accountability provisions? Try sending a few questions to HFD, Inc. about how they spend your tax dollars and maybe you’ll get your own no contact letter from an attorney at the McIntosh Law Firm!
  • Why exactly does HFD, Inc. need to budget $11,500 for legal fees? It can’t possibly cost that much to send no contact letters to Huntersville residents who just want to know how their money is being spent.
  • Why didn’t Commissioners Melinda Bales and Nick Walsh ask a single question of Chief Dotoli during his budget presentation? Put someone from the new management company at (the now profitable) HFFA at the podium and Bales and Walsh can’t stop asking questions – but a $4.4 million request from HFD, Inc.? Crickets.
  • Why isn’t there a town board liaison for HFD, Inc.? We have liaisons for the (now very profitable) HFFA, but no liaisons for HFD, Inc.?
  • Not a single town board member wanted to know how HFD, Inc. calculates $1.6 million in “losses per incident” and how that supposedly measures performance?
  • The HFD, Inc. budget request includes a $1.50 raise for all part-time employees. How many of HFD, Inc.’s employees are part-time and how many are full-time? How many of HFD, Inc.’s “part-time” employees are “full-time” employees at another agency (Charlotte Fire, East Lincoln, etc.)? How was the “average” rate of $15/hr for firefighters in Mecklenburg County arrived at? Is this an average starting part-time rate or the average rate of all pay in Mecklenburg County?

If transparency and accountability are important to you, maybe considering letting your current town board know before they vote on the budget next month. Sure it’s possible the town manager doesn’t recommend the full $4.4 million in his recommended budget, but whatever the amount the town board agrees to fund HFD, Inc. you as the taxpayer will still have almost no control over where and how that money is spent. This situation will never improve if we keep electing politicians who are afraid to challenge HFD, Inc. because they don’t want to lose votes in an election year. And it definitely won’t improve if we elect full-time candidate Joe Sailers. [Full disclosure – Mr. Sailers has a family member who is a firefighter at HFD, Inc.]

Eric

HFD-19-20-budget-request

Melinda Bales Goes From Wrong To Hypocrite About HFFA

I’m just going to keep beating this dead horse until it’s really dead.

Commissioner Melinda Bales used to be merely wrong in her opposition to a management change at HFFA, but after her comments at Monday night’s town board meeting she now can also be labeled a hypocrite when it comes to her “concerns” about HFFA. A hypocritical politician, shocking, I know.

It was just last month that Commissioner Bales tried to score a a few political points by grandstanding from the dais on the great sponsorship deal the management company at HFFA, Swim Club Management Group (“SCMG”), was able to secure with Atrium Health. She was back at it again during this week’s town board meeting by trying to defer until the April 1 town board meeting a decision on a revised services contract between the town and SCMG because of her “concerns” about the contract. What, exactly, were her stated “concerns” about the revised contract? An automatic renewal provision included in the contract and not having had enough time to review a basic 20-page contract – essentially the same contract the town signed with SCMG back in October 2017.

If only Huntersville had a full-time town attorney to help town board members answer any questions they may have about pending contracts…

So, what makes Commissioner Bales a hypocrite when it comes to her “concerns” about HFFA?

First, she never voiced any objection or concern about the revised management contract for the prior management company at HFFA, Health & Sports Works (“HSW”), not being made available until the morning of the town board meeting on October 19, 2015 when Commissioner Bales voted in favor of a contract extension for HSW. And that revised management contract included a significant, substantive change to the terms of the agreement, namely severance for HSW employees, that was never debated prior to Commissioner Bales’ vote.

Second, she never voiced any objection or concern about the auto-renewal (or mutually agreed upon renewal) clause in the services agreement with Huntersville Fire Dept., Inc. (the separate, non-profit entity the town contracts with for emergency services) when she voted in favor of renewing that five-year contract during the August 7, 2017 town board meeting.

Just a reminder, Commissioner Bales has STILL never apologized for publicly making unfounded assertions of collusion against SCMG during a town board meeting.

Policy disagreements are one thing, it’s quite another thing when an elected official actively and intentionally attempts to sabotage an existing business relationship with a partner who is making the town money at a facility the taxpayers were told for years could never be profitable (just one of the many things former town board member Ron Julian was wrong about – the same Ron Julian who screwed Huntersville taxpayers out of over $90K and who was a prominent supporter of Commissioner Bales’ reelection bid in 2017). Now, after over 15+ years of losing money under the prior management, HFFA continues to provide a valuable service to residents while actually making money and working towards paying off the $5.1 million in debt owed back to the town. Sure, this revised contract provides SCMG the opportunity to earn large annual bonuses, but only if HFFA earns a profit. If HFFA loses money, SCMG doesn’t earn a bonus unlike the prior management company that was paid regardless of how much money they lost taxpayers. What a novel problem to have at HFFA, worrying about how much PROFIT the management company might have to share with the town.

Taxpayers will never know how much money was truly wasted and lost at HFFA before SCMG took over the management role, and yet Commissioner Bales (and former Commissioner Kidwell and many, many other former elected officials) defended the prior management company for years and blocked any efforts to bring in competition for the management position. Huntersville needs people on our town board who put what is right for the taxpayers ahead of what is right for their political campaigns.

Oh, and in case you missed it, SCMG recently announced another fantastic sponsorship deal at HFFA with SwimMac.

Eric