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reports available to the auditing department and the director of finance of all receipts and deposits and of all moneys withdrawn from the city treasury, and shall present and verify his cash account in such manner and as often as may be required.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 L. ch. 151 that repealed 11 Del.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.