Delaware Wilmington

Wilmington City Treasurer is Prime Example of Government Overreach

An Introduction from Delaware Dem: Please welcome to the Blue Delaware author ranks “A Wilmingtonian.” As you can guess, “A Wilmingtonian” will be writing about Wilmington politics from a local’s perspective.


“After a judge-brokered truce between Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and the separately elected Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter, both parties are now back to fighting over the scope of each other’s powers in Delaware Chancery Court. 

Jones-Potter decided in January to forgo a hearing asking Judge Joseph Slights to dismiss Purzycki’s lawsuit against her. Instead, she filed her own claims against Purzycki, contending he “will continue to ride roughshod” over her stated role as a check on city finances. “

Have you been following this? Wilmington City Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter and Mayor Mike Purzycki are feuding over what the Treasurer’s authority is. The argument is nuts since the City Charter defines the job of the Treasurer:

CHAPTER 2. – CITY TREASURER

Sec. 6-200. – Custodian of city funds.
The city treasurer shall receive from the department of finance daily all moneys received by that department from any source and shall make daily deposits of such moneys in such banks or institutions as may be designated by council. He shall make reports available to the auditing department and the director of finance of all receipts and deposits and of all moneys withdrawn from the city treasury, and shall present and verify his cash account in such manner and as often as may be required.

(H.B. No. 158, § 2, 1-21-04)

Sec. 6-201. – Payments out of city treasury.
The city treasurer shall pay moneys out of the city treasury by check, or by electronic transfer or other means in accordance with reasonably accepted business practices. All payroll checks shall be delivered to the officer, department, board or commission of the city or other governmental agency on whose requisition they were ordered drawn. Other checks shall be delivered or mailed to the payees, unless the director of finance shall prescribe another system. Payments shall be mailed or delivered to the payees in accordance with reasonably accepted business practices.

(H.B. No. 158, § 3, 1-21-04)

Sec. 6-202. – Sinking fund, etc.
The city treasurer shall invest the moneys in the sinking fund, redeem or purchase bonds by the city, and perform such other duties as may now or hereafter be provided by statute or by ordinance.

State Law reference— 52 Del. L. ch. 151 that repealed 11 Del. L. ch. 186, which had created the offices of sinking-fund commissioners; chapter 151 transferred their duties and powers to the city treasurer.

And that’s it. The Code provides additional responsibilities as a member of various Boards or custodian of funds for city agencies, but that is it.

What’s the problem? The Treasurer wants a bigger job and the job she wants is the one that the Philadelphia City Comptroller has. Philly’s City Comptroller has a pretty vital job — looking for cost savings or financial mismanagement or even operational mismanagement. The previous Philly Comptroller made news regularly with his routine exposure of fraud and mismanagement across Philly City agencies. Wilmington certainly needs an independent Comptroller function (and there have been efforts to try to get an independent — elected — auditor who would do the same thing), but the Charter gives some of that function to the City Auditor (mayoral appointment). No one has been able to convince the GA to change Wilmington’s Charter to give us an independent auditor or comptroller. And it looks as though the current Treasurer is suing the Mayor to change her job description. It doesn’t help that Sam Guy is the primary author of this rewrite of the job description.

Wilmingtonians should propose a trade — change the charter to eliminate the elected office of Treasurer and add in an independent auditor or comptroller. But make sure that the qualifications are well defined for the job and make sure the election is a midterm one. We’d end up with a job function that we really need and eliminate one with not enough to do. We don’t need a Treasurer working at expanding her role to set the table to run for Mayor one day.

For now, the Treasurer’s job is to be the custodian of the City’s funds and disburse those funds as directed by the Finance Director. The Charter Treasurer doesn’t give much additional authority or responsibility beyond that. These lawsuits cost Wilmington taxpayers a pretty penny — dollars that we need for affordable housing, park improvements, sidewalk repairs.

NB: The blowup of the Wilmington Housing Authority is no joke. The major missteps here seem to stem from the Williams administration, but taxpayers should have the full story and no one should sweep under the rug the amazing mismanagement that looks to have happened here. Unfortunately, City Council is not up to the task. It took until this week for the Housing Committee to ask questions about it, and we admit there is not an Adam Schiff (but plenty of Jim Jordans!) in the Council questioners. We are left with very little light on this problem because the City Council members could only address their own conspiracy theories.

17 comments on “Wilmington City Treasurer is Prime Example of Government Overreach

  1. To quote Bob Dylan, “All these people that you mention, yes I know them, they are quite lame.”

    It’s not government overreach, it’s Velda overreach. Half of Delaware’s most vile power couple.

  2. Glad for a place to focus on Wilmington.

    Any comment on Ciro Adams’ proposal to change the public comment rules that eliminates any comment after agenda item debate? Newark has a decent system – Wilmington should take a look there for example.
    A Resolution to Amend City Council Rules 2 and 3 Regarding Order of Business and Public Comment
    Synopsis: This Resolution is being presented by City Council for Council’s review and approval. This Resolution amends City Council Rules 2 and 3 to provide for the following: (1) public comment will be part of the order of business at regular meetings of City Council; (2) the public comment period, which had occurred from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. before regular Council meetings, will now take place immediately after regular Council meetings are called to order; (3) the sign up deadline for members of the public who would like to speak during the public comment period will be changed from 5:45 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.; (4) any person who has signed up with the City Clerk by 6:25 p.m. will be allowed to speak for up to three minutes during the public comment period; (5) there will be no limit on the number of speakers allowed to speak during public comment period; (6) the duplicative public comment period after the close of debate on each legislative item at regular City Council meetings is eliminated; and (7) the duplicative second round of debate by Council Members at regular City Council meetings is eliminated. In addition, as housekeeping matters, certain sections of Rule 2 are relettered and the word “official” in the first sentence of Rule 2 is replaced with the word “regular”.

    And Johnson is floating a WPD $100K grant for scooters. huh?

    Plus, props to Hanifa for Tiny Houses support.

    https://www.wilmingtoncitycouncil.com/meetings/february-20-2020-wilmington-city-council-meeting/

  3. Wilmington resident

    Excellent high quality analysis. I look forward to reading hopefully many more just like it.

  4. cassandram

    Welcome A Wilmingtonian!

    Not sure about the scooters, but increasingly parts of the city (and events!) are crowded enough to need a vehicle other than a car. Think of the officers on segways at Amtrak stations or in airports.

  5. I wouldn’t say that city council has just recently brought this up. They had a Council meeting months ago where they questioned the City Auditor pretty hard about this issue and requested a forensic audit back in October, but were denied by the City Auditor.

    https://www.witn22.org/2019/11/12/auditors-report-confirms-irregular-activity-related-to-whp-supports-steps-taken-by-city-treasurer/

    I agree with everything you’re saying about Velda overreaching. The Treasurer should probably be a cabinet position. Same with the State. And the Auditor should be elected and should operate as an Inspector General as well, with a mandate to root out waste, fraud, and abuse on top of the Auditor’s traditional responsibilities.

  6. Also, to be fair… Mayor Mike isn’t absolved of this. While the mismanagement started under the Williams Administration, the stonewalling and cover up has been brought to you by Mayor Mike in an effort to protect his friends, the Buccini’s. The Buccini’s ran this board. They leveraged the organization beyond its reach while they were running the board. They gave bad loans to friends and associates and got the tax payers to back up the bad debt with more tax payer money. Then when the drama came, they quietly left the board. Now the City Auditor is working with the Mayor to keep the lid on all of this as to not embarrass the city’s top developer. If this were all about William’s Administration problems, the Mayor would have ordered the released of all of the information. But he’s not. I’m certain that it’s not because he’s trying to protect Mayor Williams.

    • AGREED that leaving Ron Buccini out of this equation is a deficit in this essay that can’t be overlooked.

    • A Wilmingtonian

      Purzycki is not being absolved anywhere. A cursory look at the 2017 WHP audit (covering 2016 — plus accountants notes which are damning) tells you that there were red flags everywhere on sustainability. They didn’t just pop up when Purzycki became Mayor. A decent number of people on this board were City people and how cash flow and acquisitions got out of control seems to be a story we need better details on. This was a public-private partnership that was supposed to work better than the City in developing affordable housing mainly by letting this work more like a private developer. Is the concept flawed or was the management. There is no way any of the business people on this board let their own firms get run like WHP. But we’re not going to get a better set of answers because this Council is not sharp enough to get to the places it needs to get to.The only big piece of info currently missing is the 2018 WHP audit. Promised to be published but I can’t find it.

      • Is Rob Buccini Voldemort? Because you won’t even say his name.

        “A decent number of people on this board were City people”….

        That means nothing. Everyone knows that Buccini called the shots. You think some lowly city employees were telling the City’s largest developer what to do with real estate investments while he sat there and twiddled his thumbs? The Mayor is protecting his boy. Its the same reason Carney hid his emails about Rodney Square. They are all protecting him.

        You’re right that the city council may not be sharp, but how is that the reason that we don’t have access to the financials? The Mayor and the Auditor can force the partnership to turn that information over, but the are stonewalling. That’s like blaming Congress for not being smart enough to gain access to evidence that Trump refuses to turnover.

        Is Wilmingtonian working for BPG?

        • Is Bane working for Sam Guy? Or Velda Potter? Because you’ve got their deflective argument down pat.

          Buccini was chair of this Board for 10 years. The funders of this group were on this Board for 10 years. In the real world, the people who provide the money get to run Boards. And the Buccini was by no means a major financial player in WHP.

          The thing that is being lost here is that WHP was supposed to be the affordable housing mechanism for the City. Affordable housing in a housing market like Wilmington’s is tough. You always put more money into rehabbing homes than you can sell them for. Everyone who knows Wilmington housing knows this. This means that WHP would never be self sufficient but also means that WHP had higher risks than a regular developer. No one on that board lived up to their fiduciary responsibility. No one thought to manage their ED closer even after their accountant sent up Red Flags. It’s up to Council to force the issue to release subsequent audits and do the kind of inquiry that captures the NJs attention so the story can be told.

          But as long as you are focused on a story of a Purzycki coverup, you aren’t paying attention to the fact that the city’s affordable housing development is at significant risk. You aren’t paying attention to what is being done (if anything) to get that properly stood up again. And nor are you paying attention to the fact that this Council is in no shape to be a check on the guy half of them think is a threat. So in the meantime, he does what he needs to and bypasses Council as he can.

  7. I am not supportive of Guy and worked against his campaign for Senate, so I don’t buy into that first line. Council is broken, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. They’re right about this. And you didn’t even touch the fact that the administration is blocking release of the financials for the WHP.

    Then you say….

    “And nor are you paying attention to the fact that this Council is in no shape to be a check on the guy half of them think is a threat. So in the meantime, he does what he needs to and bypasses Council as he can.”

    You could just take out “Council” and add “Congress”. Remove “he” and add “Trump”. Take out “Wilmingtonian” and add Sean Hannity. You’re attacking Velda for overreach, which is valid… but then you’re cool with the Mayor doing it? Who is this trojan horse you guys let in.

    Buccini was chair of this board for a decade, with fiduciary responsibility; Pre-dating William’s, Purzycki, and the ED. You’re acting like mentioning him as the problem is fake news.

  8. “Buccini was chair of this Board for 10 years. The funders of this group were on this Board for 10 years. In the real world, the people who provide the money get to run Boards. And the Buccini was by no means a major financial player in WHP.” Says Wilmingtonian

    Of course he was not a major funder, because in the “real world” developers never spend their own money. They spend other people’s money. Which is why he was not a major funder, but sat as the undisputed chair for 10yrs. You are completely swooping in to save face for the Buccini’s in the name of Mayor Mike. Good job soldier. Save these talking points for the Business Roundtable.

  9. A Wilmingtonian

    You sure have Guy’s interest in conspiracy theories and deflection of responsibility.

    No one on Council asked for the additional records at the meeting the other night. No one on Council is providing any real pressure to produce those records, either. But between the 2017 audit and the Auditor’s report, there is more than enough to genuinely address WHPs problems. You’d have to know how to read a P&L or an audit to get there, but you;ll deflect that too. City Council has a serious role here and they’ve abdicated it for conspiracy theories and name calling. You seem to think that is AOK, but if it is, then we can eliminate City Council because they aren’t going to do any reasonable review of the Administration.

    If you think that’s useless — imagine what this situation would look like if the Council Jim Baker led was in office.

    But I’ll leave you with Sam Guy’s conspiracy theories.

  10. You must have just started paying attention at the “last meeting”

    This is from November. Go watch the meeting when Vash Turner threatened the Auditor for not demanding a full audit.

    This loan is the Mayor’s

    “Mayor Mike Purzycki calls a forbearance and repayment agreement signed Oct. 3 between the Wilmington Housing Partnership (WHP) and the City for a $3.4 million dollar loan a “formality,” despite the fact that the agreement was used last month to allow additional grant money to be released to the organization. “The $3.4 million I [previously] characterized as uncollectible is still uncollectable,” said Purzycki Thursday.” https://www.delawarepublic.org/post/wilmington-housing-partnership-receives-grant-debt-city-still-considered-uncollectable

    At this point you’re not even arguing the merits. You just keep trying to throw people off the scent by using a controversial black man (Guy) as your shield. Its what Hannity does with Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan. It’s old.

  11. Unless my Mayor is actively working to find out what happened and get that info to the public, he’s owning this.

    Guy sucks and so does Velda. But the Mayor’s hands are just as dirty.

  12. MARK Anthony MUROWANY

    I’ve read with particular interest this City Treasurer/City Auditor thread . As recently as Mayor William’s term– was there legislation creating an elected City Auditor. Senator Robert Marshall was the prime sponsor on this legislation. it ended getting blocked and not pursued in subsequent legislative sessions.

    The history of an elected Treasurer and appointed Auditor – was Wilmington’s liberal cut/paste of Philadelphia’s City Charter over 40 years ago. I learned of this history during my service as City Democratic Chair (2008-2013). I pushed a review of the City Charter provisions to permit (I believed)) fairer, transparent system of fiiscal responsibility and oversight. I also advocated for City Council races to be also run in off year cycles similar to New Castle County Council. There were several other proposed actionable items which also would have allowed progress for the governance of the City – accountability of both any City administration and Wilmington’s elected officials.

    The axiom of “physician heal thyself” ought to be the basis for public discussion and reform in this bluest of all subdivisions comprising the State of Delaware.

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