Theft From City Hall--You'll See It On The TV News Tonight ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Theft From City Hall--You'll See It On The TV News Tonight

Cameras were lined up in Annapolis this afternoon when Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen appeared with Police Chief Michael Pristoop and Finance Director Tim Ellliott to explain more details about the nearly $150,000 in checks and cash that disappeared from City Hall sometime between the afternoon of June 7 and the next morning. Ironically, City Council voted that same evening to approve Cohen's budget. Less than $4,000 was in currency with the remainder in checks already stamped for deposit only, but the oddest thing of all is that Elliott, who was responsible for closing up the night the theft occurred, never informed the mayor. He found out when Pristoop called him a week later to provide an update. Chief Administrative Officer Doug Smith, who is leaving his position within a couple of weeks was informed, but somehow never told Cohen either.

Cohen said he was "furious" that he was not notified but said little about what if anything he would do, which leads this reporter to wonder, what does it take to get somebody fired? Elliott took full responsibility for the lapse in never informing his boss, but could offer no explanation as to why. Cohen did stress that other procedures in reporting the incident to the police were properly followed and that action is being taken to tighten up security.

And now, for some commentary. It's bad enough that this happened, but not to report it to the mayor is unpardonable. Elliott, a 28-year veteran of the city's Finance Department has been director for nearly ten years, during which time he has done an admirable job of walking the professional tightrope his job required under former Mayor Ellen Moyer. Cohen retained him when elected last December and he generally gets high marks from citizens and aldermen for his professionalism. However, this has gone too far. If it were any other department director, the theft and maybe even the lapse in informing the mayor may have been excusable but Elliott is the money man, and as he said at today's news conference, he meets with the mayor frequently, especially during the budget cycle which mostly came to an end the night the theft took place. How could he have failed to tell the mayor?  It made the mayor look bad, it raised questions about Elliott's judgment beyond the fact that he also closed up the office that afternoon.

Considering our dire financial situation that required obtaining a ten million dollar line of credit, one would think that the missing $150k would have been something the mayor needed to know about, especially since it occurred in the building where he works.  But here's a weird one to ponder--how could Cohen have been utterly unaware of this for an entire week, regardless of whether Elliott reported it to him or not. Even Alderman Matt Silverman, who happens to be a county police officer  but is not in City Hall every day knew about the theft.

Can you imagine if the CEO of British Petroleum learned about the oil well blowout from CNN? I am sorry Mr. Elliott but I think it's time you handed in your resignation. I know that if I were your supervisor, I would be asking for it. Yes you did inform CAO Doug Smith, and it is amazing to me that Smith did not inform the mayor either, but as mentioned above, Smith is leaving in a couple of weeks, although it is rumored that he may be in line for another city position. I think Mr. Elliott should realize the seriousness of his error and go spend more time with his family and pursue other interests.

In the audience with Cohen at the news conference were both, yes both of his public information officers, Smith, City Attorney Karen Hardwick, and seated next to Smith, the man who appears at just about every public event, Mike Malinoff, the director of the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Protection. Malinoff has been widely rumored of late to be named to succeed Smith under the slightly reorganized and renamed position of City manager, a title he held in Newport, RI.

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