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.
I feel that the personal attacks do no good, It only brought back the same . As XLFD stated lets hear why a person feels the way they do . Charles, do you think that the city should be able to spend our property tax dollars on what ever some department head wants that doesn't benefit the city ? You talk about wasting time, do you agree that city workers should spend time working on non work related projects during their regular working hours? Lets hear how you feel about that with out the the mud throwing.
It's unfortunate that she wasn't able to bring anything more to the table than ad hominem attacks against myself and Aquaman before she left, but that appeared to be the forte of "Charles". One of a long list of trolls who come here and try to detract the message and the messenger with everything but a reasoned counter-argument.
You would expect our Assistant City Manager Jackie Sneigowski-Steckel to have friends, and you would expect there to be friends of the benefactors of this charity that should come on here and try to explain away the gross impropriety of what you have succinctly encapsulated in your brief post, Stump, but there seems to be only resounding silence other than our resident troll Johnny faulting me for bringing the subject up. And Charles, who runs after I deduce where she originally came from. It's that Rockford dialect.
Being that "Charles" appears to be someone that now lives in Ludington and had their taxes misused, it would be enlightening to find out exactly why she feels the way she does about this subject.
I was wondering when the Facebook page would be taken away to hide the unethical dealings of the Assistant City Manager and others involved who work for the City of Ludington, and it has been taken off Facebook. I've still not gotten any sort of explanation from the city in regards to this, but I did receive a FOIA regarding the invoices, checks and other records regarding this benefit, and I will share it in a short while in another thread.
Thanks for your courteous input Stump, very well said. I checked out that facebook page too a few nights ago, and it was already gone then too. So, appears someone is regularly monitoring here for interference and coverup all the time. As you already have those screenshots X, I'd be taking them to the next meeting printed up and asking all the obvious questions about the entire episode, and to find out whom expressly authorized these unethical and quite possibly illegal expenditures. Why didn't the city council run interference and approve these beforehand? Why didn't this subject appear in any OMA beforehand? How can this sort of episode even exist with all the checks and balances in the system to begin with? I'm sure you can also add even more questions for the cc to answer to. Knowing Tricky Dick, he'll probably read this and be prepared with another song and dance/trick shot artist excuse about how it's all ok, above board, and totally legal to do. But, I think most of us, at least the ones with any thinking caps, know all too well, it aint so!
Since Aquaman made mention of the assistant City Managers pay, I am curious as to what the total sum is when the salaries and benefits of the City Manager and assistant City Manager are added up. Add in the office staff they have as well as expenses and I'm sure it will add up to a hefty amount of cash.
The grand total for the City Manager's expenditures are right around $240,000 as seen on page 11 of this link, with just salary and bennies for Shay and Sneigowski-Steckel at $217,400 per annum as of the 2014 budget. This does not include any excess that they might realize from other funds, as they dipped into the rec fund for this selfless donation.
If you scroll down further to the Police and Clerical/Reserves I was stunned to see that amount. It's $2.1Million out of the $5.3Million total budget, or 39%. I also noticed that about $4K is for cell phones. Don't those people have their own? And with all the fancy LE radios and communications expenses, I would think this isn't necessary, even though it's fairly paltry compared to the total. Yeah, a $1/4Million for just a couple of managers sure seems grossly inflated for their duties.
Thanks for posting that information regarding City expenses. As Aquaman noted the large amount used by the police department, I also noticed the large amount being requested for the west end of Ludington ave project which amounts to almost 1/2 million dollars. A very expensive whim of the good ol boy crowd.
That West End budget item is dramatic when you consider the large amount of infrastructure projects that are yet to be addressed by our city's 'leadership' regarding wastewater conduit, treatment and facilities. What good is looking out in the water at the end of Ludington Avenue when all you see is a murky brown fecal soup.
I wonder how many miles of sidewalks could be built so that kids won't have to walk in the street to get to school. Something is seriously wrong with those in charge of City Hall. They care more about dressing up a dead end road than the possibility of have dead kids due to the lack of sidewalks.
Great prosaic imagery, Willy, to describe a serious problem unaddressed by the Ludington City Hall's dead end kids in charge.
if you gave your monwould you not be dismayed if instead of providing that service that you paid for,ey to someone to provide a service for you, Xtreme Antler