Additional reporting by Elizabeth Friend
Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil will remain in office until 2017, according to his recent contract extension.
The Chapel Hill News reports that the Town Council unanimously approved the extension on Monday in a closed session meeting. The decision also approves a three-percent pay increase, as all town employees received this year.
In early September, eleven Chapel Hill residents submitted a petition to the Council asking it to hold Stancil and town staffers accountable for “apparent fiscal mismanagement”.
Chapel Hill resident Tom Henkel delivered the petition. He said he’s seen a pattern of over-reliance on outside consultants and a failure to rein in costs for their services. He cites the Central West Small Area planning process as a recent example.
Stancil responded to the petition saying he’s proud of the “consistent and transparent reporting of budget matters”. He said financial updates are given to the public and Council periodically throughout the year and are always available through the Town’s website.
Henkel said the town should consult with experts from UNC instead of outside experts.
However, Stancil said annual independent audits show the continued commitment to proper financial management.
Henkel also noted that the Town Manager’s administrative budget increased by 45 percent over the past five years, while spending for street repair and new vehicles dropped by 25 percent.
Despite these allegations, the Council showed its complete support of Stancil with Monday’s unanimous vote.
Chapel Hill resident Tom Henkel delivered a petition to the Town Council on Monday asking the Council to review what he calls “apparent fiscal mismanagement” by Town Manager Roger Stancil and town staffers.
Henkel says he’s seen a pattern of over-reliance on outside consultants and a failure to rein in costs for their services. He cites the Central West Small Area planning process as a recent example.
“In the case of Central West, the original contract was for $90,000, but the price kept going up and going up,” says Henkel. “It finally got up to $230,000 before the manager basically cut off the funds and said enough is enough. In our opinion it never should have even gotten that high.”
Henkel says the town should consult with experts from UNC instead.
“In general, we have a lot of professional talent at UNC-Chapel Hill. They have an outstanding city planning program and it just seems to me and others that we ought to try to get help from these experts and save the town a lot of money.”
Henkel also notes that the Town Manager’s administrative budget increased by 45 percent over the past five years, while spending for street repair and new vehicles dropped by 25 percent.
The eleven signers of the petition are asking the Council to hold Stancil accountable for these and other spending decisions during his upcoming annual performance review. While those usually take place behind closed doors, Henckel says the spending review should be made public.
“I think the review and at least some of the things we’ve asked for- the explanations- should certainly be made public.”
The group of petitioners, which includes former Planning Board chair Del Snow and former Town Council member Julie McClintock, has been critical of the town’s recent planning efforts for the Central West and Ephesus-Fordham focus areas, but Henkel says that they are more than mere naysayers.
“If we don’t offer constructive alternatives, I don’t think just being critical is worth very much. We have been offering constructive criticism and made very constructive suggestions for improving the process of approving development projects in this town.”
In the 2013 municipal election, Henkel was drafted as a write-in candidate as a protest against Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who was running unopposed. He garnered 244 votes, slightly more than 5 percent of the 4,675 votes cast.
Henkel’s petition was accepted by the Council on Monday and referred to town staffers and Council members for review. You can read the full text below:
Thomas Henkel, Ph.D
3 Mount Bolus Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Petition to the Chapel Hill Town Council, September 8, 2014
Good Evening Members of the Council:
I am Tom Henkel, and tonight I wish to bring to your attention several recent instances of apparent fiscal mismanagement by Town staff, and to ask that you exercise your oversight authority to ensure that our tax money is used wisely and not wasted.
In our opinion, the recent instances of fiscal mismanagement include:
1. Consultant cost overruns, such as during the Central West Small Area planning process. The consultant contract for $90,000 was allowed to balloon to $230,000 before the Manager acknowledged the problem and cut off the funds.
2. Use of public funds to promote a private development project, as occurred in the case of Obey Creek;
3. Use of projected Ephesus-Fordham district related fees to fund affordable housing initiatives for the FY 2014/2015 budget, when these funds were clearly designated during the Ephesus-Fordham rezoning deliberations as necessary to pay off the bond debt financing scheme.
5. Poor planning to repair the flood-damaged Town Hall. The original estimate of $400,000 to $500,000 for the repairs has more than doubled to $1,200,000, and the bills have not yet been submitted.
6. Finally, over the past five years, the Town Manager’s administrative staff budget has increased by 45%, while the funds available for street repair and vehicle replacements have both decreased by more than 25%. More generally, as you can see in this chart, over the past ten years, the proportion of the Town’s budget allocated to the Town Manager’s office has increased more than any other line item in the budget, while during the same period, the proportion of the Town’s budget allocated to essential services such as fire, police, and public works has been stagnant or declining.
In addition to these examples of actual fiscal mismanagement, there has been at least one instance of potential mismanagement that was averted only thanks to the vigilance of the Town’s citizens and (some) Council members. The $10 million the Town has borrowed to carry out infrastructure improvements in Ephesus-Fordham have never been tied to a specific scope of work with itemized cost estimates. This mismanagement almost led last June to the misappropriation of public funds to benefit private interests. Specifically, the Town Manager recommended spending public funds to build on private property a road that will primarily serve a private housing development.
We therefore petition the Town Council to use the occasion of the Town Manager’s upcoming annual performance review to request that the Manager provide explanations for each of these instances of fiscal mismanagement. We further ask that you direct the Manager to create a performance improvement plan that specifies policies and procedures he will implement to help ensure more prudent and responsible management of public funds in the future. Finally, we ask that the explanations the Manager provides for these lapses and the performance improvement plan be made public.
Mickey Jo Sorrell
Photo by Ernie Rogers – CHTC parking lot.
CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt issued a proclamation Monday declaring Chapel Hill in a state of emergency.
The proclamation gives Town Manager, Roger Stancil, the ability to take any necessary actions to ensure the safety of the Town’s citizens, including opening any shelters that are needed. It also authorizes him to modify or require any regulations and fees necessary to ensure public safety. Mayor Kleinschmidt also formally ordered that all citizens and emergency management personnel to comply with the emergency action plan.
The proclamation was put into effect immediately and will expire 30 days from its inception, unless another proclamation withdraws it or modifies it.
The Mayor’s memo came a week after flood waters greatly damages homes and businesses in Chapel Hill.
To read the full proclamation by Mayor Kleinschmidt of the state of emergency in Chapel Hill, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/chapel-hill-mayor-declares-state-of-emergency