Former Benton Harbor finance director left over lack of access | Benton Harbor

Former Benton Harbor finance director left over lack of access | Benton Harbor

BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor’s previous finance director, James Williams IV, explained he came to the city in August to make a variance.

In a Wednesday job interview with The Herald-Palladium, Williams claimed he resigned Feb. 3 mainly because he was not receiving the tools and cooperation required from metropolis staff members to do the job.

In the course of his six months on the position, Williams mentioned he was never ever specified accessibility to some of the city’s pc courses and software program, which includes the kinds relating to tax dollars and the retirement program for municipal personnel.

“It’s incredibly hard to perform when persons really don’t communicate with you and you never have the tools that you have to have,” he claimed. “You do not know what is using area. You do not know what you are signing off on. You do not know in which the money’s becoming invested. You are in the dark.”

Throughout his tenure with the metropolis, Williams operated as the finance director/treasurer. In accordance to Williams, finance directors are in cost of payroll, funds receipts and grants and oversee the city’s audit. He reported the treasurer handles residence and metropolis earnings taxes.

In his hybrid job, Williams experienced to approve tax-related paperwork without the need of entire entry to the facts driving those files. In addition, he explained Metropolis Manager Ellis Mitchell and staff from Plante Moran often held financial meetings without the need of him.

“When they make a decision to have a finance director who’s able to do the occupation, they have to incorporate him or her in those discussions and be as transparent and cooperative as attainable,” Williams explained.

Mitchell could not be attained for remark following a number of makes an attempt from The HP.

The town has employed a finance director for significantly less than two of the earlier 7 several years, with personnel from Plante Moran handling the city’s finances between directors and staying on board to enable coach the new kinds.

Benton Harbor finance director resigns

When Williams was employed in August, the program was for Plante Moran to remain on for six months to support him understand the occupation. Prior to becoming a member of Benton Harbor, Williams was a senior auditor for the Michigan Department of Education and learning and Office of Treasury.

“Because I was unable to do my work proficiently, it extended my studying system of how they do matters there, which means that I desired more than the 6 months they originally gave me,” he stated.

Williams said he made the decision to discuss on the report mainly because he does not want the very same point to transpire to the future finance director.

In recent many years, Benton Harbor has experienced a revolving door of finance directors. After Jody Lundquist still left in June 2015 for a distinct task, Plante Moran stuffed in for just about 3 many years right until Andrew Clark was employed in March 2018. Clark still left 11 months later on in February 2019, stating in his resignation that he was not privy to weekly conferences concerning then-Metropolis Supervisor Darwin Watson and Plante Moran.

The situation remained open for far more than a few many years ahead of Williams came on board.

Town Commissioner MaryAlice Adams stated the city wants a finance director who can reply concerns at town fee meetings. She claimed no one from Plante Moran attends the conferences, which raises a purple flag for her.

“I’m not accusing anybody of anything at all, but why couldn’t this man have what he essential to be effective in the task he was employed for?” Adams mentioned Wednesday.

The city’s charter calls for 5 workers to get the job done instantly below town commissioners, which features the metropolis supervisor, finance director, clerk, assessor and lawyer. Adams said Williams was accomplishing a good position of maintaining the commissioners informed.

Mayor Marcus Muhammad declined to remark on Williams leaving, expressing it was a personnel make any difference.

“I want Mr. Williams effectively in his long run endeavors,” Muhammad explained.

The very last straw

Williams, who life in the Detroit space, mentioned he wasn’t capable to relocate to Benton Harbor as rapidly as he originally planned. So, on some times, he labored just about from his dwelling. On other times, he would function considerable hours in Benton Harbor until eventually late at evening and remain in a resort so he could return to function the next morning.

He explained he in no way skipped staying there in individual for a town fee conference or a staff and finance committee meeting.

Williams reported the very last straw came about two weeks back, when the metropolis allegedly took 3 days out of his bi-weekly spend, stating he did not operate on these a few days. Williams reported he has proof he labored all of those times. On a single of the times, Williams set up a digital meeting between himself, Mitchell and a contractor to talk about possible overcharging remaining accomplished by the contractor.

While he claimed he was not getting cooperation, Williams explained he was performing his best to permit metropolis leaders know there was a issue. In December and January – all through the regular personnel and finance committee meetings – Williams unveiled the typical fund and utility fund were missing revenue thanks to residents not having to pay their drinking water expenses.

Report: Benton Harbor utility fund on the verge of default

He explained residents ended up explained to they did not want to pay back their h2o bills for the duration of the drinking water crisis. Even so, Williams argued now that nearly all guide service traces have been changed, the drinking water would be superior and that it was time for people to start off paying out these charges.

As a result of the maintain on household water charges, Williams said the utility fund owed the common fund a large amount of dollars. In January, he advisable $2.5 million that Benton Harbor been given from the federal American Rescue Approach Act be transferred to the city’s utility fund. Normally, he explained the city runs the possibility of the utility fund turning into bancrupt.

“I believe that this is what triggered frowns on faces and unpleasantries and the docking of the pay back,” Williams said.

He stated some want to give the cash to the inhabitants so they can pay back their h2o payments. But, he stated that indicates the town won’t get some of the revenue for months.

About 2,000 people have been having to pay their h2o costs, but Williams said yet another 3,000 have delinquent costs.

“You can not shell out those who really don’t shell out their monthly bill and to individuals who do, you do not give any cash. It has to be evenly dispersed,” he reported. “What occurs is that when you are spending someone’s expenses who doesn’t have a stability, now you have deferred earnings, indicating the city won’t be capable to accumulate on that profits until eventually their bill will come owing five months down the line. That would put a strain on the utility fund.”