Brendan Fitzpatrick

November 30, 2023

City Councilors, CFO Continue to Discuss Financial Reporting

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FRAMINGHAM - Discussions regarding financial transparency continued on Tuesday, November 28 between the Framingham City Council’s Finance Subcommittee and the city's Chief Financial Officer.

The talks stem from initial looks to ensure more financial transparency within the city government. Earlier this month, multiple City Council members looked to begin work towards providing accessible financial records after members such as District 8’s John Stefanini—who’s also on the Finance Subcommittee—have requested extensive records on multiple occasions. These matters come as the city is still without an accountant and assistant accountant.

Following a Finance Subcommittee meeting on November 20, At-Large City Councilor and Chair of the Finance Subcommittee George King mentioned that providing the quarterly report for September of 2023 would be a “good place to start” in order to promote financial transparency.

CFO and Director of Administration and Finance for Framingham Louise Miller was tasked with providing these updates to the Finance Subcommittee on Tuesday. She explained that new additions have been provided online in order to publish more financial documents, adding that Fiscal Year 2023 and the year-to-date numbers for Fiscal Year 2024 have been run.

Miller noted that she would be open to taking suggestions on what format the statistics should be presented in, as they’re currently offered through the provider Laserfiche; that’s noteworthy since some members of the subcommittee had issues downloading the documents during the most recent presentation. Miller said she’d ask the city’s Technology Services team about that trouble, though multiple subcommittee members reiterated previous online access challenges.

“I appreciate that there’s a page,” District 4’s Michael Cannon told Miller, “but as we’ve talked about in the past, aside from getting the reports and whatnot…we were going to cater to folks.”

Aside from any access hiccups, Stefanini continued to express frustration after not seeing the information he claims he requested in full. He told Miller that he had searched within the recently provided documents for the payroll information of multiple names within the city government—including his own and Mayor Charlie Sisitsky’s—to no avail.

“What’s going on here,” Stefanini asked Miller.

“Is this like a shell game? It really is insulting. Do you not see what’s going on here?”

“I would like to understand exactly what it is that you do think is going on,” Miller retorted, “because I am not coming here to try to hide anything from you.”

“But you are,” Stefanini quipped back, before King permitted Miller to finish.

Miller answered by stating that she is working extensively each day to fix the financial systems within the city government.

“We are working really hard to answer your questions in addition to everything else that needs to be done,” Miller continued.

Miller said that her and her team will work to provide the payroll information that Stefanini mentioned within the next week, though she noted that the payroll details are acquired through a different module.

King does believe that what was provided to the subcommittee this week is a solid start for financial reporting, even if it isn’t what he described as a “strict checkbook ledger.” District 3 City Councilor and Finance Subcommittee member Dr. Adam Steiner also showed his appreciation for the work being made towards creating an online resource for both government officials and the general public to access. Both Cannon and Stefanini were appreciative of the effort put into the latest update as well during the meeting.

Still, Stefanini was looking for answers to his questions about the current state of affairs while emphasizing his desire for checks and balances to be in place regarding signed contracts and other financial matters.

“‘I’m not saying there’s anything inappropriate,” Stefanini said, “but no one in this committee, no one in this community has any eyeballs on any of that.”

Stefanini added that as a “last resort,” he would move for a roll call vote on the matter during December 5’s City Council meeting if the information he is looking for is not presented.

Cannon wanted to ensure that there is a “collaborative effort” to offer transparent financial information in a timely matter. King agreed with that sentiment, adding that he wants more work done to improve online access.

“Our website really is our face to the community, because that’s where people go…I think our website does leave stuff to be desired,” King said.

Miller told the subcommittee that a contract is currently in place to conduct the city’s annual audit in the near future.

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