Sunday, September 4, 2016

Will Former Finance Director Ralph Gabb Fill the Vacancy on the GMSD Board of Education?

Mark Dely is leaving his position on the GMSD Board of Education due to a job change that requires relocation. We will miss him and wish him the best.

On August 24, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen narrowed down the candidates for this vacant board seat to six people. The Board's vote was captured here by one of the candidates seeking a seat on the Board of Education in the upcoming election.

Listed below are the six candidates who will be interviewed Wednesday, September 7, beginning at 8am in the Economic and Community Development Conference Room located at 1920 S. Germantown Road:  

Shining a Light on Germantown does not know any of these candidates personally, but I linked some biographical information that may help you learn something about them.

One of the six candidates, however, was discussed in an earlier post.  Ralph Gabb was the City's Finance Director during the entire six years that City Administrator Patrick Lawton received both the use of a city-owned car and a car allowance totaling nearly $40,000.  Based on the vote shown above, he is now one of the two favorites for the vacant position on the Board of Education. It is therefore worthwhile to revisit the issue. You may see the original post here:    

It is worth noting that Mr. Gabb's LinkedIn profile lists internal controls as one of his skills. I worked with internal controls every day during the ten years I served as the Finance Director for a local non-profit.  Paying an employee a car allowance for six years while simultaneously issuing him a the use of a city owned vehicle is incompatible with the application of appropriate internal controls.

According to Mr. Gabb, the simultaneous car use/car allowance was discovered in October 2014.  Mr. Lawton reimbursed the City at the beginning of 2015. 

What I am not sure about are the circumstances that led to Mr. Lawton's reimbursing the city. I would like to shine a light on these circumstances, but the facts are murky at this point. Mr. Gabb told the Commercial Appeal that he forgot how the simultaneous car use/car allowance was discovered. Both Mayor Palazzolo and Alderman Rocky Janda have told me that it was discovered by the auditors during the 2014 audit. I an unable to find a reference to the simultaneous car use/car allowance in the published audit, and I have asked for documentation showing that it was in fact discovered by the auditors.   

I will update this blog post when and if I receive such information.   

Here is another possibility, suggested by Sarah Freeman and discussed in the Commercial Appeal's  July 7, 2016 article:
"City leaders say that's hogwash, but Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman finds it highly unusual that City Hall randomly noticed that Patrick Lawton had received a car allowance plus a city car for six years and never noticed the extra pay in his check until shortly before she filed her first Open Records request...............  (snip)

Details of the car allowance overpayment were included in more than 150 pages of Open Records requests made by residents Jon Thompson and Wilkerson-Freeman about the Germantown city administrator's pay. ........(snip)

Wilkerson-Freeman suspects the double car allowance was discovered after Alderman Rocky Janda "warned" Lawton in an email that the "dark side" had met to discuss their intention to go after the "financials" of his salary."

Mr. Gabb has maintained ties to the City after his retirement at the end of last year. He has been paid approximately $11,000 as an independent contractor through August 31 of this year.  

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