Transparency in Government
I have lived in Matthews all my life and I have seen many changes over the years. I've been an advocate for transparency in the Town of Matthews for quite a while.Transparency is so important in our local Government because this leads to accountability, reduces corruption and changes the relationship between the citizens and our government officials.
I'd like to take a moment...and give you three examples involving the lack of transparency by the Town of Matthews.
One – On November 28, 2005...the Town Board approved the Technology Allowance Policy. This policy was created to cover the cost of cell phones, computers, software or supplies. I understand the need for technology equipment, but I think there is a lack of transparency when each Board member receives $3,600.00 per two year term which is a sum total of $25,200.00 every two years for the Board of Commissioners and nowhere on the town website is this indicated. Nor do they disclose that all items purchased become their personal property.
If the Board is going to use $25,200.00 dollars of taxpayer funds every two years to purchase cell phones, computers, etc., in my opinion, this should be public knowledge on the Technology Allowance page.
Two – Transparency for the Budget Ordinance Amendment...when there is an increase or decrease in the Towns General fund...the Board of Commissioners must approve the changes in funding and include a description for the change. On August 4, 2015...by order of the Mecklenburg County Superior Court...the Town of Matthews was ordered to pay the Wright family their attorney fees of 74,570.00 for 2014.
For those of you not familiar with the details of this legal battle...it was between a Matthews homeowner and the Town of Matthews...in part...over land rights and the condemnation authority of the Town. This litigation was ongoing for over 20 years costing the taxpayer's of Matthews more than $250,000.00. After many court rulings and appeals by the Town...it was found by the Mecklenburg County Superior Court...that the condemnation was exercised in an arbitrary and capricious manner and predominantly benefited private, well-connected individuals of Matthews.
On August 24, 2015...the Town Board approved the Budget Ordinance for $74,570.00 as ordered by the court, but in the description it is noted as “Legal Fees” and “The purpose of this statement is to use Fund Balance to fund an appropriation for a required purpose.” As you can see this is very vague at best...and in my opinion...this is not transparency.
When the Town of Matthews had received the order issued by the Mecklenburg County Superior Court to pay attorney fees for the wrongful action against a Matthew's resident, we had the right to be informed and to know exactly how our tax dollars were being used.
Three – A Town Board meeting is an official meeting according to North Carolina General Statute §143-318.10(e). During these meetings the Town Clerk will record what is being said and discussed. At a later date the Board will approve the minutes for public record. The Board is required to have an accurate and full general account so that the citizens who did not attend the meeting can have a general understanding of what transpired by reading the minutes. Why not go above and beyond the minimum requirement? Why not record official meetings verbatim in order to avoid a biased selection of what is entered into public record?
I believe, for Government to have the trust of the people there must be Transparency.
Thank you for your time and have a wonderful day.