The MSB Assembly members have a longstanding tradition of eating dinner together with the taxpayers footing the bill.
There is often a “Special Meeting” at 4 p.m. prior to the regular Assembly meeting at 6 p.m. The MSB leaders have dinner in between these meetings, often purchased from the Colony Inn Cafe Steakhouse , which is conveniently located right next door to the main Borough building. (According to one Assembly member, the group generally eats together in their conference room often with the Atty, Clerk and/or Manager in attendance too.)
The MSB does not advertise these dinner meetings and the public is not invited.
In my opinion, this practice is a violation of the Open Meetings act.
It is also not fair for the MSB leaders to charge the taxpayers for their meals.
Note: I asked a former Assembly member about this practice. This person said – we didn’t do this 25 years ago. That is what the Stipend is for (All Assembly members get a yearly stipend of approx. 13K each) – to pay for expenses such as buying a sandwich if they are working long hours at meetings.
Here are examples of the Assembly’s “Dinner Meeting” scheme. This happens on a regular basis from my analysis of the MSB credit card statements.
August 1st, 2017:
The Assembly holds a Special Meeting at 4 p.m. for the Annual Evaluation of the Clerk. (Note: At this meeting, Assembly Member Colligan moves to amend the Clerk’s contract to give her a MSB “personal use automobile” and “all expenses therefor” in place of her $300 per month car allowance.) All the Assembly members give the Clerk high ratings for her job performance. The meeting adjourns at 4:58 p.m. A dinner tab of $307.20 at the Inn Cafe Steakhouse is charged on the MSB Attorney’s credit card on the same date. Then the Assembly holds its regular meeting at 6 p.m.
The Special Meeting:
The Inn Cafe Dinner bill:
The regular Assembly Meeting:
August 2nd and 17th 2016:
The MSB Assembly had 4 p.m. Special Meetings followed by 6 p.m. Regular Meetings on both of these dates. (The Aug 2nd Special Meeting was the MSB Manager’s Annual Evaluation and the August 17th Special Meeting was the MSB Clerk’s Annual Evaluation.)
Here is the MSB Clerk’s credit card for August 2016. There was a charge of $315.00 for the Inn Cafe Steakhouse on August 2nd and there was a charge of $299.95 for the Inn Cafe Steakhouse on August 17th.
(Note: There are other interesting charges on this credit card statement too. A trip to San Francisco. This may have been for a bond sale.)
The MSB Clerk (Lonnie McKechnie) charged $274.25 at the Inn Cafe on Dec 1st and the same amount on Dec 15th. Additionally, on Dec. 1st, the MSB Manager (John Moosey) charged $62.60 plus $100 and $100 at the Inn Cafe. (These two $100 charges are ODD.) So, the total the MSB spent at the Inn Cafe on Dec. 1st was $536.85 (Moosey’s $262.60 plus McKechnie’s $274.25) and $274.25 on Dec. 15th.
Here are the Agendas for the MSB Assembly meetings on Dec 1st and Dec 15th. On each of those dates, the MSB Assembly held a “Special Meeting” at 4 p.m. followed by a regular meeting at 6 p.m. The Dec 1st 4 p.m. meeting was to discuss “Strategic Opportunities.” And the Dec. 15th 4 p.m. meeting was for a “Community Development Department Overview.”
Here is how another city dealt with the same issue. See the below article from Nov. 2017:
“A long-standing Rochester custom of charging the taxpayers for a monthly City Council meal at a local restaurant was an improper use of public funds and a potential violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law, the state auditor has ruled.”