Thursday, January 03, 2008

Lamb eager to take over as city's new controller

Culture shock.
Lamb eager to take over as city's new controller: "'Our first issue is changing the culture of that office,' Mr. Lamb said Monday. 'We will change even the day-to-day things, such as what the hours are going to be and what the dress code is.'
Great news. Matching uniforms. Just what Pittsburgh needs. The dress code in the controller's office is sure to make a huge difference.

With the new dress code, we (citizens) might be able to tell who are the paid employees and who are the consultants. Consultants are ones we pay too, but they have checks from some other person. And, those checks are paid back to campaign accounts.

The PG says: Police continue to investigate at least nine stolen city checks. The probe has been slowed by the difficulty of getting banks to turn over records. No arrest has been made.

So, the banks are not helpful. Imagine that.

I've called for 'transparent accounts' such as 'open trust funds' for all banking of public money. If those measured had been implemented, there would be NO PROBLEM with the bank slowing the records. The records should be OPEN SOURCED RECORDS for anyone to witness.

And, if my solution had been in place, the act of 'stealing checks' would be able to have been seen by anyone as it happened. There would be little need to call in the police -- as the investigation could be done online by everyone.

Open records and transparent trust accounts would work wonders. This is our money. We should be able to tell what's what at any given moment.

And, most of all, we need TRANSPARENT PAC ACCOUNTS for campaign accounts.

Of course Lamb wants to get present employees prosecuted -- as he only has a staff of three new hires. To the victor go the spoils -- in the D-mindset.

I'm glad to know that there are "controls" in the "controller's" office -- so says Tony Pokora. What has become of the bid to be named city treasurer, by the way?

Lamb has high standards. Do an audit once every four years. Shiver my timbers.

Lamb is very insightful with his expression that "city council has its issues." No Shit Sherlock! But he does NOT say, or the article does not report, that there will be an audit of city council. Perhaps we'll have to wait three and a half years for the audit. Got to get the uniforms first.

Might as well just size them all up for 'jump suits' -- if you know what I mean.

Lamb wants to increase the role of the controller at the Schools. Well, Mr. Lamb, have you resigned from the position as a board member of A+ Schools yet? A+ Schools is a nonprofit that aims to monitor Pgh Public Schools. A controller should NOT be on the board with that booster group and be an independent official.

Lamb's school thrust is to look at contracting. That has little to nothing to do with teaching our children. How many families are pulling their kids out of the schools because the competitive bidding done by the school district is just no up to par with expectations? I know that when I take my kid to school that there is a great demand on the playground for oversight in the change orders among contracts. We don't even talk about the minority contracting these days -- as it just gets too emotional for too many to even go there. Lamb to the rescue.

Then comes the grand daddy of them all -- the big naval gaze. Lamb wants to audit the auditors. And, he can't do it himself. So, he goes and beggs the overlords for the power and the money to go out and hire outside auditors to do the job that he was elected to do himself. Don't hire an accounting firm with our money to worry about what has gone 'down da river' and 'over the dam' already. Fix what needs to be fixed for the future.

Lamb should go into the new job and manage that office -- with what he's got.

PeopleSoft! Yes. Of course PeopleSoft is antiquated. All closed source code software is antiquated. Lamb should move urgently to all open source software solutions. Lamb could even hire an computer programmer with open source experiences to help manage the migration.

Lamb can get grants, write grants, go to Sourceforge, go to CMU, go to Pitt, go to Ice Land. Go to where the open code is being used now. And, it is free. It is gratis too!

Of course the state is paying two firms to review the city's needs. Firms have employees that make kick-backs and campaign donations. I would rather hire a few open-source programmers to coordinate the migration to open-source ways.

Update: Tony won't be hired by Luke as Treasurer.
Trib article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lamb eager to take over as city's new controller
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A new watchdog always has to prove his bark and bite, and incoming Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb expects to have plenty to chew on when he takes that office next week.

On the to-do list: upgrading the performance of both the people and the accounting system that monitor the city's money and contracts, getting involved in school district operations and digging into stubborn costs like workers' compensation spending.

Not on the list: Running for mayor in 2009, despite speculation among political wags.

Mr. Lamb will cross the lobby of the City-County Building, going from Allegheny County prothonotary to city controller after a 2 p.m. swearing-in ceremony Monday in the Council Chamber.

His new office continues to bear the imprint of Tom Flaherty, who held it from 1984 until he ascended to a Common Pleas judgeship at the end of 2005. Since then, his longtime deputy, Tony Pokora, has served as acting controller.

The office has released provocative reports on issues like parking lot rates and the effect of tax exemptions on the city's bottom line. It also has faced personnel problems, ranging from the on-the-job sale of drugs by then-supervisor Gil Martinez to the revelation last month that police were investigating the theft of city checks.

"Our first issue is changing the culture of that office," Mr. Lamb said Monday. "We will change even the day-to-day things, such as what the hours are going to be and what the dress code is."

He'll have to do that without changing much of the staff. Budgetary constraints and civil service rules mean he'll only bring over three trusted aides -- Doug Anderson and Tucker Sciulli from the prothonotary's office, and assistant Gina DiNardo from his law practice.

Police continue to investigate at least nine stolen city checks. The probe has been slowed by the difficulty of getting banks to turn over records. No arrest has been made.

"We're going to do everything we can to see that they're prosecuted," Mr. Lamb said of the suspect. "There's obviously an issue with controls. We want to make sure that controls are in place to ensure that doesn't happen again."

"There are controls. That's why we caught it in the first place," said Mr. Pokora, who hopes to join Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration. "We stopped it, and we're working with the police and getting the documentation we need."

Mr. Lamb wants the office to meet the requirement in the city charter that it audit every city agency, department and trust fund at least once every four years -- a mandate it hasn't met in the past. That means a potentially sensitive audit of council.

"They're a department, and I don't think they've ever been audited," he said. "It's a very small department on a budgetary basis, but they have had their issues."

Those issues came to the fore with the November no-contest plea by former Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle to corruption charges and ethics violations.

The controller serves not just the city, but also the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and Mr. Lamb said he hopes to increase its role there.

He plans to check into district compliance with contracting rules that govern competitive bidding, change orders and minority contractor participation. He also hopes to review the effectiveness of the marketing of closed school sites to developers.

Mr. Lamb wants to audit the controller's office itself, securing a pledge from the state-appointed Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority to help pay an accounting firm to do a review. Mr. Pokora said that's a waste, since an outside consultant audited the office two years ago as part of a court case on its spending.

There will be more mundane audits, too, like a look at the city's $25 million-a-year workers' compensation tab. "When you look at other cities, it's exorbitant," Mr. Lamb said. He wants to see whether training can be improved to cut down on injuries, and if enough is being done to bring hurt employees back to work.

The city's 15-year-old PeopleSoft system has long been antiquated. "Nobody really knows how much money is where," Mr. Lamb said. "The big concern is, is it going to crash?"

It crashed last year, plunging the city into financial darkness for a week, Mr. Pokora said.

The state is paying two firms to review the city's needs, and will help to finance a new system. Mr. Lamb wants to see if schools and city authorities could be on the same system.

All that won't leave a lot of time for politics.

"I really am not a candidate for mayor in 2009," he said. "I'm going to do this job and try to get that office moving in the right direction and hopefully help get the city moving in the right direction."

Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542.