Charity for a worthwhile cause is something that is hard to disagree with. The reader of this piece, like myself have probably made countless donations in their life given the opportunity to what they felt was a good cause.
Likewise, due to financial realities, we cannot donate generously to all causes without suffering our own financial hardship. In similar manner, if you gave your money to someone to provide a service for you, would you not be dismayed if instead of providing that service that you paid for, they decided they would give that money away to what they thought was a good cause?
Furthermore, what if that someone had a monopoly on this service you paid for and a legal mandate for you to pay for this service, and because of their generosity with your money, you are now having to pay more for the service you are forced to get? And you are less able to have extra money to donate to what you want, and get the good feeling that comes with it, while someone else uses your money for their own charitable purposes.
This happened last month with the 'you' in the above scenario being the Ludington taxpayer and the service provider being your friendly neighborhood City of Ludington government.
The charitable cause was the Brian Whitman Co-ed Slow-Pitch Softball Tournament and Dinner held on Saturday, September 6 at Oriole Field. By those who attended, the event seems to have went off without too many hitches, and it raised money for what few people would debate as a good cause described as "Brian is currently battling a rare form of cancer called Wild Type GIST. This benefit is to help support him in this battle and also raise money to help with his medical costs."
The Facebook page (Facebook Brian Whitman Softball Charity) describes some of what the event was and the extent of the charity fundraising
12 Team Limit- Double Elimination
$150 per Team- Registration begins August 1st
Contact Dan Dodson 231-690-9381 to register
Chicken Dinner $5
(Includes 1/4 Chicken, Potato Salad, Baked Beans & Dessert)
Serving 2-6 PM
They wound up having sixteen teams altogether in a double elimination tournament:
People had fun, money was raised for Brian Whitman's family, and so what could be better than that? Well, if you feel bad because you weren't able to contribute to the tournament, the dinner or buy any merchandise supportive of the cause, you can rest assured that (if you are a Ludington taxpayer) you did indeed.
In the latter half of August, the city council approved over $2000 of improvements on softball fields at Oriole Field with money from their recreation fund. I am in no way claiming this is part of your donation, but due to the timing, it was likely an investment in infrastructure so that the ball fields would be at their best for this tournament.
What puts up a red flag is the budget for the recreation fund in the Sept. 8th 2014 packet shown below:
That snipping from the budget for that pay period shows two expenditures from the city budget going for two printings of T-shirts for this benefit, and a separate payment for food and trophies all amounting to nearly $2000. The September 22 pay period budget shows nearly a hundred dollars more going to McDonald's Bakery for 'fundraising expenses' for the Whitman Benefit:
All told, over $2000 paid out for the event by the taxpayers for this charity. Why is the public entity known as the City of Ludington writing checks to charities without approval at an open meeting to the public?
To come to their defense, you could say that maybe they replenished the expenditures with the proceeds they got from the sale of the food and shirts, and gave any excess to the charity. But besides there being no evidence of that on the Facebook page (and to the contrary, a post by our assistant city manager on August 15 saying that all T-shirt proceeds were to be given to the Whitmans), why would they have used public funds in the first place, especially when it was just speculation that they would actually realize a profit from the event in T-shirt and food sales?
Quick math calculation: With 16 teams of 9 players each if every player buys one shirt ($10) and one ticket to eat ($5) you barely break even at $2160 with the budget line expenses. That number would be 25% less if the original 12 team schedule was implemented.
But those costs were small compared to the amount of time our public servants put in while on duty at Ludington City Hall supposedly doing work for the people. This can be effectively shown by looking at the Facebook page of this charitable event, where the Assistant City Manager Jackie Steckel (whose pay and benefits each year amount to about $80,000) announced on July 24 that her fellow city official, Recreation Director Cathy Van Sickle made some flyers (likely with city hall printing equipment as she broadcasts they will be done on Monday) for the event:
Cathy was handling registration fees for the event as well at city hall, while doing her other duties.
The first T-shirt order was sent out by Steckel, along with the plan to sell them for $10. That doesn't leave a lot of room for 'profit', since a Facebook post later says they ordered 200 shirts altogether (making the costs of each a little over $5 each). Not to worry, though, another later post says that ALL money from sales goes to the charity's beneficiaries.
Here's the post where the Assistant City Manager says that ALL (my emphasis) proceeds of T-shirt sales will go to Brian and Nicole Whitman. Not included are the words: courtesy of Joe Taxpayer who thought they were paying for government services!
But Asst. City Manager Jackie does bless our awesome community and gives thanks to all who donated (which includes everybody in our awesome community, if they wanted to or not):
Here's a post that let's us know how much T-shirts were ordered (200). A calculation with the two orders in the budget shows the actual costs of making the shirts is slightly north of $5.
Of course, when public money is involved, Councilor Nick Tykoski has to make a cameo appearance at least, here is the banner he 'donated' to the benefit. Tykoski is well known from Signgate for donating a lot of time and materials before a bid for downtown signage is put out via his wife. Those donated time and materials cost the city over $15,000. If he did benefit from these two signs, it is well hidden in the city's expenditures.
Asst. City Manager once again gives thanks to all who donated just after the event. That includes all of those who gave involuntarily when they were paying their local taxes and utility bills, but she doesn't mention them specifically:
This post was made during Steckel's normal work hours on Monday September 8th letting people know that more T-shirts were being ordered and to contact her (at work) before 11 AM that morning. The second order goes out at noon that day as part of the people of Ludington's business as Steckel gets paid around $160 in wages and benefits during this morning hawking the shirts on the internet. Nice to know our second in command of the city has pressing public business she can put on the back burner as she discusses how to get more money to go to a charity from T-shirts brought with public funds:
And one week later on Monday, she announces more shirts. Feel free to give her city hall phone number a call if you have any questions on this non-public business. Talk for a long time, the taxpayers are just paying her a dollar for every 90 seconds you're on the phone with her:
So here's the deal. I give a lot to charitable causes, but I use my own money to do so. I do not grab money that my job entrusts me with to make my donations with. Assistant City Manager Jackie Steckel may have had the highest intentions in this case, but she effectively used money stolen from the city's coffers to purchase over $1000 in shirts (and likely the food costs) for a private charitable fundraising event. All of the money used from the sales of the shirts were donated to this charity. She had absolutely no authority to do so.
If you were to commit larceny from your job, you would be disciplined and be liable for criminal penalties. In the Ludington City Hall, it just seems to be part of the job. No penalties just praise from those with whom you helped with the money that should have been spent on roads, police and fire protection, and other worthwhile purposes a city government has a duty to perform.
This is unbelievable....A human beings life is on the verge of being lost and you want to go out and start making these ridiculous accusations? You are incredible Tommy and sickening that you would throw this kind of dirt out there.
The small team I work with for Relay for Life had only people living at the poverty level as regards income, and yet we were able to raise over the amount the City's taxpayers paid for T-shirts here over each of the last four years, and more than the taxpayers spent on food and T-shirts here during this year.
The people gave their time on their own time, their own money not the money extracted from others under threat, received donations and sponsorships from other private individuals and businesses who knew what they were donating to.
Let's not cloud the issue here, Johnny. Assistant City Manager Jackie Steckel used powers of her office to transfer public funds to private individuals. It's a misuse of public funds, which is a serious offense almost anywhere else.
It doesn't matter whether you or I think that that was a good purpose for it, because it is logically equivalent to using that money for her own purposes, without official permission. This is a serious offense against ACM Steckel, not an indication of any wrongdoing by the charity or its benefactors.
For a recent example, the Michigan Housing Authority chief resigned when it came to light that he was misusing funds even though it was business related during the course of his employ: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20140808/NEWS/140809830/michig...
So far you've made three posts this evening. You've called me both bored and conflict-loving twice, and then a host of other recognitions of which I confess that I am sadly undeserving of.
The irony of what you're saying concerning me perhaps applying to you is obvious to all but yourself. Have a good evening.
I agree with X on his assessment and disagree with Johnny's rude reaction and his condoning the use of tax money for a private cause. X's posts represent someone who understands Government's over reach and misuse of public resources while Johnny is more than willing to endorse a Government's stealing of money from citizens and using it for purposes other than what is was intended for. This is how Government has been able to reach into our lives and pockets with arrogance and impunity because of the support given by people like Johnny. The City could have collected voluntary donations but instead used the strong arm tactic of squeezing the public for money then doing with it whatever they wish. Thanks X for bringing this to our attention.
Your welcome, Willy. Such expenditures are indicative that the Ludington city management team has little problem with deciding what non-public uses they want to use their budget for. These are the same people who want to choose your next city clerk and city treasurer, so they don't have to worry about checks and balances, as witnessed at the last meeting as they tried to justify the charter change for those offices.
The citizens should be up in arms over this misuse of public money, and I will attempt to press the issue in the coming weeks. Apologists like Johnny can continue their arguments; they make little sense unless you're actually benefitting from the City's generosity and worried about your next check.
Johnny has attacked me for being on one or more forms of government assistance (which I am definitely not), but here he defends fraudulent public assistance for someone else. Hypocrisy, anyone?
Very well said both Willy and X. Objective analysis of any situation, esp. when it pertains to public fund expenditures that are truly legitimate and required for the public good, is the true point here. When the very foundation for your thought process is centered in hypocrisy, you have no choice but to believe what is just fantasy and lies. It's the cornerstone for progressive liberals that poison the water for the rest of society that needs an ethical system of checks and balances. Jackie is getting a salary of at least $80K/yr.+ benefits. I just wonder, can't she alone, or with a handful of friends, make that donation themselves for the paltry $2,000 for those shirts and flyers? True charity comes from the heart, mind, and pocketbook of the individual, not the collective population of the City of Ludington's budget!!! I am sorry that she made this decision. It doesn't seem in her true honest character, and I have to wonder, if someone else didn't push her to do this, or at least approve it.
For Johnny boy!
That's my view of what charity is Aquaman. When you hold the position of assistant city manager for decades you have a tendency to forget where the money you're spending is coming from. That's why long term city managers and their assistants are perhaps the greatest threat to local governments working properly. Lifer politicians with immense power who don't even have to worry about being elected by the people are anathema to a democratic republic.
How can one be bored, when the City of Ludington is constantly doing unethical and illegal actions at the expense of the taxpayers so brazenly?
As a new member who has only replied to this topic, Charles, would you like to make a substantive comment or tell us about why you feel as you do? Do you actually think the taxpayers of Ludington should have their funds filtered out to select charities, in an illegal manner, while other deserving charities get nothing? Please tell us your thoughts on the matter.
Charles, newbie member, out to cause hardship, chaos, and conflict, is all I see again. Really not interested in life's problems, just another sheeple. My answer to you would be less wordy. "Get a brain, so you don't sound stupid and uninformed"! All I witness is mush between the ears...lol.
Charles, just remember, "empty heads give out loud noises"! You're not here to debate with any ideas, proofs, links, observations, nor decorum. You're another city bent crazy, one that only attacks like a guard dog. A happy home/family is just what XLFD has already. A happy, honest, ethical, locals-oriented town of appointees and politicians, that he doesn't have. Nor do I, and we aint going to stand around and do nothing about it anymore. So, if you don't like it, why don't you go back to Detroit, or Flint, or whatever rock you crawled out of to come here? Or are you too small a fish in a big pond? That comes here to prove to us locals that you have merit and are a big fish here? Fyi, when you join a new forum, try to participate in a positive fashion, courteously, make sense, make friends, or else, find a forum where your kind of poison is common and accepted PAL!
I would guess that you probably grew up in Rockford, "Charles".
You obviously don't know anything about me rather than what you've been told, but for the last five years, shortly after I retired from the Ludington Fire Department primarily because of the growing corruption in the local politics I witnessed, I have put out a lot of stuff on the Ludington Torch detailing these facts. As you may be finding out, I don't do personal attacks, just the facts, ma'am.
You are free to debate the issues presented, but apparently you only seem to want to deflate the person presenting them and the people who agree with them without anything other than personal attacks in your repertoire. Feel free to feel good about yourself while you do so.