Concerns over the flow of information from the city auditor’s office were central to a heated discussion Monday evening during a Hillsboro City Council meeting after Hillsboro City Auditor Gary Lewis said mayor Drew Hastings’ request for more detailed reports from the auditor’s office amounted to “crocodile tears.”
Hastings, who was not present at the meeting, said in a written report that after attending a June 22 pre-audit meeting, he had followup meetings with state-appointed auditors regarding the need for “more relevant, in-depth financial reports” from Lewis’ office.
Lewis responded during the auditor’s report later on in the council meeting.
“I was reluctant, in fact, I wasn’t going to say anything about the conduct of the mayor during the pre-audit meeting that was conducted a couple weeks ago, but since he felt compelled to put it within his report, I’m compelled to respond,” Lewis said.
Lewis contended that the content of reports “for public consumption” is decided by the president of council, and that if the mayor or council members wanted more detailed reports, they should speak to the president, and he in turn would speak to Lewis. Council president Lee Koogler was also absent Monday.
“That’s why every time you hear me speak and give my report, I tell exactly how much money the city has in the bank and if there’s any questions,” Lewis said. “The mayor and his conduct during the pre-audit meeting, quite frankly, that is not the place and time for him to bring that up. It would have been nice if he had given me the courtesy of asking me about that before that meeting, but in the going on six years that he has been mayor, never once has he complained about any report that has been given to council. There was a lot of crocodile tears in that pre-audit meeting.”
Council member Ann Morris said she didn’t notice anything inappropriate during the meeting referenced by Lewis.
“I was also at the pre-audit meeting, and I didn’t see anything out of line with anybody,” she said. “I thought it was a good meeting.”
“Well, I’m glad you did, but for the mayor to even extend that further with a private meeting with the auditors” was inappropriate, Lewis said.
“I think the only thing that I was asking for at the meeting was just a more detailed account,” Morris said. Council member Tracy Aranyos agreed.
“And again,” Lewis said, “that was not the time and place for that… And again, maybe it’s a misunderstanding on your part.”
“No, I think it’s just I have asked you several times for more details,” Morris said.
“Oh, no, you haven’t, no, you haven’t,” Lewis replied.
“I have, Gary, I have emails,” Morris said.
“Okay, yeah,” Lewis said, “and we archive our emails, and we’ve archived our emails for eight years, and if you want to see every single email that you sent me… All three of you,” also referencing council member Claudia Klein, “all three of you, if you want to see the emails that you have sent me, and if you want to see the responses, I’ll be happy to get those for you.”
In reference to a previous meeting where similar points of contention were apparently made, Aranyos said she was dissatisfied with the information she was given by Lewis.
“It was too hard for me to understand,” Aranyos said, “but it was your job to make me understand.”
“One of the comments that the auditor made, and that’s in the meeting,” Lewis said, “was if there’s a very detailed report that maybe you wanted to have a meeting with them and explain to them what is entailed in that thing, that’s what I felt was involved in this particular case, Tracy, and you responded by complaining to the mayor. And what did the mayor do? He sent me an email lambasting me because I didn’t give you the information. What was your response to me was, ‘never mind, I don’t need it now.’ And if you want to see those emails, we can get them for you.”
At that point, council member Dick Donley, sitting in for Koogler, rapped the gavel to put an end to the discussion.
“This is not a place for argument,” he said, adding that if council members have an issue, they should meet with the auditor personally.
“I would just like us to get along,” Aranyos said.
“Just between us, not anybody else, we’ll just ask for a more detailed report, that’s it,” Morris said. “And no temper.”
“No sarcasm,” Aranyos added.
“But again,” Lewis said, “I can show you, every time you’ve asked me for information, the information I have available to you, I have made available to you.”
“Just in general, I think we would just like to get it more rapidly instead of arguing back and forth and ask for it multiple times,” Aranyos said. “That’s it.”
Klein also said she hasn’t received the information she wanted from Lewis, specifically on the Hillsboro dog park.
“It would come into line items,” Aranyos said to Lewis. “And you know the budget better than we do, and that’s why we’re asking you, because we don’t have line items. That’s where we’re coming from, asking for more specifics because it’s very vague and we have to get that information from you.”
Donley again put a stop to the argument, saying that if council members want to communicate further with the auditor on the matter, they can meet with him personally.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.