“My understanding is that the Mayor refused to sign the payroll for Fire and Police last week, and I would just like to inquire as to what was behind that,” Fifth Ward City Councilman John Haas said during individual ward reports.
Asked if it is true, Murray said, “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Portsmouth Police Chief Charles Horner was asked about Murray’s refusal to sign the payroll for Police and Fire. He indicated there was a note attached to the payroll stating such.
The Times made a public records request to the office of Portsmouth City Auditor Trent Williams, and subsequently received payroll sheets for Police and Fire, with a cover page that contained two notes. The first note was written by a member of Williams’ staff, which read, “Please have Mayor sign and return ASAP, thank you.”
At the top was a Post-it note that read, “I will not sign. Insufficient funds,” initialed by Murray.
The Times also received a memorandum addressed to City Council members, Williams, City Solicitor Mike Jones and David Thompson of the State Auditor’s Office, from Murray, dated 7/26/10, re: payroll authorization. It read, “I am authorizing payroll with the full realization that the city financial records show deficits in the following funds at the end of June 2010:
• General Fund — -$1,191,883.41
• Water Works Revenue B — -$258,031.87
• Sewage System Revenue Fund — -$406,060.65
• Insurance Account “B” Fund — -$253,515.69
The memorandum ends with, “This is owing to Council’s adopted 2010 budget.”
Murray was also asked about Haas’ assertion that she was going to place stop signs and speed bumps in the 5th Ward.
“I heard both on Grandview and on Dorman. I’d like some clarification as to whether that will be occurring, and whether that will be going to the traffic committee,” Haas said.
When asked about it, Murray did not answer.
The current budget deficit is around $1.2 million.
During the course of the meeting, some citizens brought up the city’s budget, which prompted a statement by 3rd Ward Councilman Nick Basham.
“I wanted to shed a little light on the situation,” Basham said. “I got a copy of the budget that was passed, and the revised budget that the Mayor had submitted. I just took literally the bottom line folks. And I guess what we are called is the inept lack of leadership Council. The Mayor’s budget, bottom line balance was negative $738,000. There was a move of $900,000 from Capital Improvements (CIP), which, if we had approved what the Mayor recommended, there would have been zero money in Capital Improvements. So without the (20)09 carry-over, we would have had a $738,000 budget deficit. Council’s budget that was passed, not including the carry-over, not including furloughs, was only -$651,000. Again, we’re in a deficit, but that’s a smaller number folks.”
Basham said if the (20)09 carry-over was added, the Mayor’s deficit was $1.2 million, and Council’s deficit was $1.1 million.
“Again, both are bad numbers, but the inept, incompetent Council saved more money,” Basham said.
Murray attempted to respond, calling Basham’s statement “inaccurate,” but was gaveled down by Portsmouth City Council President David Malone.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or email@example.com