The City Council’s Ways and Means Committee approved an appropriation of $125,000 from the Budgetary Fund Balance, or Free Cash, to the City Clerk’s Archive Account through the end of the fiscal year during Monday’s Ways and Means Committee meeting at City Hall. Committee members also designated Councillor-at-Large Stephanie Smith to sign monthly warrants to ensure that the statutory responsibilities and obligations are met by the city. However, Chair John Hanlon had reservations about doing so.
In regard to the money transfer ordered by City Council President Michael Marchese, City Clerk Sergio Cornelio explained that they have renovated the safe with rolling racks in the City Clerk’s Office and digitized permanent records across municipal offices. “We digitized 50 years of treasurers’ payroll, dating back to 1970 so far,” Cornelio said. “We will do the same with council orders for a couple of decades.”
Cornelio added this isn’t a new appropriation, adding that the money was actually liquidated and given to taxpayers as Free Cash when it wasn’t intended to be.
Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas said the money remains in the City Clerk’s account as a non-lasting special appropriation, and a purchase order was prepared by a third-party contractor at the end of last fiscal year.
Ward 3 Councillor Darren Costa asked if the city uses the same third party. Cornelio said they do, adding that they’re in discussions with a three-year contract versus annually to save money.
Cornelio said that eventually every department head will have access to their own database, especially for important documents, such as solicitors’ court cases.
Costa asked Demas the total amount of Free Cash. He wasn’t sure offhand, but he made a note to get back to him. Costa asked about other uses of Free Cash. He said Free Cash is used to negotiate with a number of unions, including a city ambulance service, which will be discussed at the next council meeting.
The Committee then recommended favorable action on the money transfer.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 41, Section 56 allows the committee to select one member to sign monthly warrants. The monthly warrants will be available via DocuSign and any member is welcome to view them.
However, Committee Chair/Councillor-at-Large John Hanlon didn’t feel comfortable voting for anything that he couldn’t see. “I want the committee to go to your office, or want the committee to be here,” Hanlon said. “It’s a committee, and I don’t like the idea of having to view the bills at home.”
Demas said he can always pull supporting documentation in PDF form from his office if Hanlon has questions.
Costa said whether the form is electronic or paper, it wouldn’t change the fact that one committee member has to sign it. Previously to DocuSign, committee members would sign it collectively. He made a motion to designate Smith to be the designee to sign monthly warrants. Smith seconded his motion.
Hanlon said he’ll go along with the committee if they want to do electronic documents; however, he emphasized the importance of seeing the bills collectively as a team at the committee meeting. He asked what would happen if Smith signed the warrants, and then Hanlon decided he didn’t want it signed.
“We’re responsible for all of these things,” Hanlon said. “We can’t get together as a group?”
Cornelio said that by the time it gets to committee, the money has already been spent. “I’m pulling a purchase order from a department head,” Cornelio said. “The Chief Financial Officer has already checked it.”
Hanlon asked, if Smith signs the warrants, what’s the purpose of meeting? “I review it,” Hanlon said. “I don’t like it, but it’s already signed.”
Costa assured Hanlon that monthly, recurring payments will come in that should make Hanlon more comfortable.
Demas said he’s okay with sharing the warrants ahead of time on paper and electronically. Costa will make sure that Hanlon has paper access.