City staffers reject former boss’ true-up story

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 88 views 

Top Fort Smith staffers object to a statement from former City Administrator Dennis Kelly about the details surrounding a now controversial 2009 true-up water bill with Van Buren.

True-ups are geared to cover changes in operating costs that may increase or decrease the cost of water. Van Buren Municipal Utilities Commission Chairman C.E. Dougan has said Fort Smith officials missed an August 2010 deadline to provide the Van Buren commission details on the 2009 true up.

Van Buren has agreed to pay Fort Smith for $581,000 in true-ups for 2006-2008, but does not believe it owes a $253,000 true-up for 2009. The Fort Smith Board of Directors voted Dec. 7 to have City Administrator Ray Gosack attempt to negotiate with Dougan for the 2009 true up. Gosack said Friday he plans to meet with Dougan prior to the Christmas break.

Kelly recently sent a memo to the Fort Smith Board explaining his involvement in the issue. Kelly countered charges that his delay on the matter is a reason the true up deadline was not met. He said when asked by Finance Director Kara Bushkuhl and Fort Smith Utilities Director Steve Parke about pursuing the true up, he said he told them to not enter negotiations, but simply bill the true based on the agreement. Kelly said he wasn’t sure why the city staffers didn’t pursue the matter.

But Bushkuhl and Parke have a different story.

Bushkuhl sent the following statement to the Fort Smith Board and Gosack.
“My discussions with Dennis Kelly were related to the Financial Analyst position and whether it could be filled since the position became vacant in March 2010.  Those were the discussions when I told him about the primary duties of the position with one being the true up provisions with Van Buren.

“The first instance that occurred regarding the Financial Analyst position was when Dennis Kelly came to my office in either April or early May of 2010 to tell me that the position was to be frozen and it would remain unfilled through the end of 2010.  At that time, I told Dennis that this position was highly specialized and that I did not have anyone to take over its responsibilities that included the rate study updates and the true up provisions for Van Buren.  Dennis told me not to worry about these duties.

“The second time that I spoke with Dennis about the Financial Analyst position was in August 2010 when he met with me in my office about the list of positions to remain unfilled for 2010.  Dennis was taking a resolution to the board about the frozen positions and the Financial Analyst position was to be included.  He requested that I help him with the amount of funds that would be saved by leaving the positions unfilled.  I again reminded him that the duties of the Financial Analyst included the rate study updates and the true up provisions for Van Buren.  He told me that I was not to worry about the true up provisions with Van Buren because he wanted to delay any contact with Van Buren about this matter.  Please note that this was the second time that he told me that the true up discussions with Van Buren were to be delayed as Dennis had previously delayed any such discussions when the Sanitation Department was trying to get the contract for trash pick-up in Van Buren and when there were plans for RITA.

“I did not go to Dennis’ office with Steve Parke to discuss the true up provisions with him as Dennis mentions in his email message below.  There was no 2009 true up calculation performed at the time he mentions so there would have not been a bill to submit to Van Buren.”

Parke sent this note: “I did not go to Mr. Kelly’s office, either with Kara or individually, nor did I ever have any other discussion with Mr. Kelly related to the Van Buren true up matter as represented in the email message below.”