Jefferson Davis is a longtime resident of Menomonee Falls. He is the proud parent of two wonderful boys. He enjoys singing, volunteering, reading, gardening, politics, antiques, history, guitar, violin, piano, officiating, helping neighbors and yard work. He served as Village President of Menomonee Falls from 2003-05. He is a member of Northbrook Church and serves on the Advisory Council for the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. He is an independent registered representative practicing in the areas of insurance, investments and retirement.
Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil, See no Evil...IRS Violations?...Attorney General Citings?...You're Hired for at Least 10 Years
Non-Competitive, No-Bid 10 Year Contract of Nearly $1,000,000 is Unanimously Awarded by Village Board at Taxpayer Expense for Falls Cable Operations with Village Manager's Recommendation
Like the popular 70's cartoon character Alfred Newman who always seemed to be oblivious to those things around him that didn't seem just right with his "hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil" attitude, Village Board Policy was adopted this past week at the Village Board Meeting of April 20th with the awarding of a nearly $1,000,000 non-competitive, no-bid 10 year contract to Falls Cable Access Corporation for Management Services of the Falls Cable Access Channel(http://www.jsonline.com/news/waukesha/43400587.html) without any substantive questions or debate by the Village Board.
All of the preliminary work for the contract was once again done in Closed Session between the Village Manager and Village Board without any taxpayer input, review or inspection of any documents before the Village Board unanimously awarded the contract at the April 20th Meeting.
A contract award of this size (nearly $1,000,000) and magnitude is typically required by Village Ordinance and Village Board Policy and under normal circumstances is put out for competitive bids and often times public input is encouraged prior to any decisions being made by the Village Board as was done with the new library in 1999-2000 and the 2005-06 Cable Access Consultant's Report that taxpayers funded.
This is also done for sidewalk installations, curb and gutter replacements, equipment purchases, well drilling, road repair, tree plantings, computer software purchases, ambulances, street sweepers, squad cars, fire department vehicles, snowplow trucks, firearm purchases and park shelters to mention a few of the many Village Departments that are required to go through a competitive bidding process every time a purchase is made or contract is awarded on much smaller amounts than $1,000,000 involving taxpayer money.
The Village Board also used the competitive bidding process to privatize the operations of the Assessor's Office in 2005 that was promised by the Village Board to save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars with the awarding of a contract to a private firm for assessment operations in the village.
The Village Board also used the competitive bidding process in 2006 to, in the words of the former Village Manager "...fire the benefits analyst for pure political reasons", award the benefit analyst contract to a new firm that has unfortunately resulted in nearly 12% annual increases in health care premiums for taxpayers over the last 4 years when the previous benefit analyst had a 2 year track record (2004-05) of lowering health care premiums by an annual average of 1.7% saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The public was not notified of any pending Village Board action on Falls Cable Access until the April 20th Village Board Agenda came out at the last minute late in the day on Thursday April 16th or Friday April 17th buried on the Village's Website or posted on the Public Notice Board just outside the front door of Village Hall giving taxpayers no time to contact Village Board Trustees with concerns or suggestions about the questionable and controversial operations of Falls Cable Access over the last 17 years.
History of Falls Cable Access Revisited
The Vanguard has written extensively about the troubled past of Falls Cable Access (http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/2008/08/01/falls-cable-access-whatever-happened.aspx) and will simply summarize their many questionable operation decisions and bully tactics here:
- didn't file federal income taxes on over $1,000,000 in income for nearly 15 years
- wasted some $7,500 of the taxpayer's money trying to convince the IRS Tax Exempt Division they were part of Village Government when they weren't
- used bullying and intimidation tactics toward those who dared to raise questions about their operations
- threatened lawsuits to those who had legal concerns about their operations
- were part of a smear website campaign that depicted an African American as a slave to be used against elected officials that asked questions about their operations
- probably didn't report thousands of dollars in personal income to the State of Wisconsin and IRS
- probably used government facilities for personal or business gain
- publicly physically accosted individual(s) who challenged the legality of their operations
- threatened to "get you" in an email for those who questioned them
- admitted to severe personal "debt" and "health" problems in an email
- Board of Directors hadn't met in many years while business was being conducted without any oversight, accountability or legal decisions for the benefit of just a couple of people
- threatened to shut the cable access channel down in protest to the questions being asked
IRS Cites Falls Cable Access for Numerous Federal Tax Law Violations
The Vanguard also learned of the IRS citing Falls Cable Access in 2005-06 for numerous violations in various areas of federal tax law (http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/2008/12/01/obama-fairness-quot-silence-quot-doctrine-comes-early-to-menomonee-falls-village-board-budget-hearing.aspx).
A partial summary of the IRS findings against Falls Cable Access would be as follows:
- federal tax returns should have been filed for the last 15 years
- Falls Cable Access is not part of the Village Government in total contrast to what Falls Cable Access stipulated with their attorney
- federal tax returns must be filed in the future
- the original IRS Letter Ruling of 1992 should have been followed when for 15 years it had not been
- turn over 2004-06 federal tax returns
Attorney General's Office Cites Falls Cable Access on Numerous Open Meetings and Public Record Law Violations
The Vanguard also learned of the Attorney General's Office citing Falls Cable Access in 2008 after a 3 year investigation for numerous violations in the areas of Open Meetings and Public Records Law (http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/2008/12/20/doveryai-no-proveryai-trust-but-verify-village-board-garbage-agreement.aspx) that can partially be summarized as follows:
- improper posting of meeting notices
- insufficiency of public notices
- insufficiency of meeting minutes
- conducting business outside of properly noticed meetings
- insufficient number of Board Meetings
- untimely responses to public records requests
- excessive per page charges for public records
- improper requirements of identification of requestors of public records
- improper requirements of the motive for those requesting public records
The Attorney General's Office decision was in part due to a 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court Case (2006AP662) involving similar behavior of a governmental funded unit in the City of Beaver Dam that tried to do the same things to the taxpayers there and lost.
Falls Cable Access is Finally Forced to Disclose their Expenses as a Result of IRS and Attorney General Findings
The Vanguard has also written extensively about the full disclosure of the expenses for Falls Cable Access (http://blogs.menomoneefallsnow.com/the_vanguard/archive/2008/09/23/public-employee-benefit-costs.aspx).
Taxpayers will now be able to go to the Guidestar Website (www.guidestar.org) to review the Federal Tax Returns of Falls Cable Access without having to be treated the way they have been for the last 6 years and without any fear in learning how taxpayer's money is being spent by this organization.
A Simple Question of the Village Board
Would your business be given a contract with a poor and dismal track record like that of Falls Cable Access of the last 15 years?
Once again it's too late because the Village Board has already made a decision without giving the taxpayers a chance to be heard. Now they have to live with it unless enough pressure is put on Village Board to do the right thing for taxpayers.
The Vanguard is simply asking the Village Board to do the right thing with the following suggestions:
- return the taxpayer surplus account (over $500,000) at Falls Cable Access to the Village for proper use because the taxpayers gave it to them in the first place
- appropriate only what is necessary to Falls Cable Access for budget purposes on an annual basis
- return any unused funds to the Village like all other non-profits throughout Wisconsin are required to do on an annual basis
- in the future, give taxpayers a voice for a decision of such magnitude as this with a public hearing in light of all of the controversy created by Falls Cable Access
- monitor the purchase of any "digital equipment" by Falls Cable Access in the future because there is serious doubt that Cable Access Channels will even be in existence 5-10 years from now because of the internet and technological advances similar to questions being raised about the future of libraries
- why invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment that may not even be needed 5-10 years from now
- no one thought typewriters would ever be eliminated either
- accept Time Warner Cable's Offer to purchase equipment above and beyond their refunding of the taxpayer's money with their annual $300,000 + payments to the Village unless it's too late because the Village Board didn't accept their offer in contract negotiations
- follow the recommendations of the taxpayer funded 2005-06 Cable Access Consultant's Report that strongly suggested the Village Board have more oversight and accountability of Falls Cable Access by holding semi-annual meetings
What do you think?
Let the Village Board know what you think by contacting them at their attached email addresses (http://menomonee-falls.org/index.asp?nid=292).
Have a great week!