Someone call Indiana Jones. We may need him to find missing documents in Oxford.
During a Commissioner's Meeting Tuesday night, Town Manager Cheryl Lewis disclosed that she had found a document outlining the town's financial investment policies which had apparently been "missing" for more than a decade. She found the document after she did "research" on whether such a policy existed. Ms. Lewis has been at her job for approximately eleven years working with town bank accounts and funds and apparently never knew of such a document which had existed since the 90's.
The announcement of the discovery of the document coincided with continued discussion about Commissioner Katrina Greer's idea to move millions of dollars in the town's funds from Bay Vanguard Bank to the Maryland Local Government Investment Group to increase the interest on the money to almost five percent rather than the lower rate provided by Bay Vanguard Bank. Bay Vanguard has a branch in Oxford which was one of the reasons Ms. Lewis gave for wanting to keep the money there. In three months, however, keeping the money in Bay Vanguard cost the town possible earnings of $30,000 in additional interest.
The sudden document discovery also coincided with Greer's proposal that the town enlist a committee of citizens with financial and money management experience to advise the Commissioners on money matters and investment.
Curious coincidence if you believe in coincidences.
When Lewis announced that she had found the document in her version of "my bad," Greer stated that she was embarrassed for the Commissioners and, in particular, Lewis. Lewis stated that the policy had been created in the 90's and she had just never seen it before.
In the 90's, the State of Maryland required all towns and municipalities to create such a policy in order to be in compliance with State law. It seems odd that all the Town Commissioners, Town Manager Lewis, and town lawyers of the past decade either didn't know about it or ignored it.
Oxford is a small town. In fact, appointed Commissioner Delean Botkin described it as a "tiny town" in an attempt to brush aside the need for financial matters to be handled carefully with the advice of a financial advisory committee for the town.
However, Commissioner Greer pointed out that the town has had approximately $30 million dollars run through accounts in the past decade including a huge grant for the water/sewage treatment facility. That is a large sum of money to most people. And even small towns deserve a return on their funds and assurance of fund security.
The issue has caused lively discussion in the town. Many citizens are questioning why different banks and accounts where not investigated in the past. Others are afraid that Bay Vanguard will close its "branch" if the town's money is taken out. Bay Vanguard is a bank headquartered in Baltimore with over $555 billion in assets. Hardly seems feasible that they would leave town for the removal of this relatively small amount.
Others have pointed out how badly the Bay Vanguard Bank stock is doing:
Regardless, as one citizen pointed out in a passing conversation, "it's clear that the people running our town have no idea what they are doing." That may sound harsh, but in the past eight months we have seen mis-managed personnel/hiring decisions, refusal to listen and act on citizen complaints, refusal to answer citizen's questions, nepotism, suspect appointments, unclear hiring practices, ineffective law enforcement procedures and most important, non-transparency.
Maybe we shouldn't expect any different from our commissioners since they get paid a pittance for their service. However, they RAN for those positions of their own volition. No one held a gun to their heads. In fact, many of them begged for us to vote them into office so they could change things. One bragged to me that she had managed a $50 million budget in her time on the school board. She should know better than allowing one person to control all the money.
So far, only Greer has delivered on her promises. She is the only one raising questions and seeking information.
Even if we can't blame our commissioners, we certainly deserve better from our highly paid employees.*
At the very least, they should all do their due diligence and research. It's what they are there for. And maybe they should open the town's books to people who are financial and money management experts. We used to have a certified public accountant that did the books. We haven't for a decade.
Let's not forget that in the past couple of town audits, not having advice from such a committee has been cited by auditors as a flaw in town financial practices.
Seems odd we would ignore that.
So many coincidences. So many things hidden.
Like I said, Oxford needs Indiana Jones. Or maybe someone like Sherlock Holmes.
*To be sure, there are good people working in the Town of Oxford. Our town maintenance manager and crew work tirelessly to keep the town clean and to keep town property in good shape. Before, during and after storms they are on duty for days at a time picking up debris from down branches and trees and just doing clean up. If you ask them for help, they are there.
Our police officers are responsive and polite when they are here and on duty.
We have a thirty-five-year employee in the town office who is always there with a smile and a professional attitude.
SPECIAL NOTE: The author was not present at this meeting. Information was gathered from the livestream archive and others who were present.
UPDATE!!!!! The following is taken from an article by the Star Democrat: Oxford uncovers investment policy - Star Democrat (newsmemory.com)
According to the town attorney, Lindsey Ryan, the policy was not attached to the ordinance it was supposed to be attached to. This was after Commissioner Katrina Greer asked if Oxford had an investment policy.
In a text message Wednesday, Greer said it was “unacceptable” for town administration to say they did not know about the policy.
“Knowing the town laws and comporting with them is the primary function of an administrator,” she said. “This is deeply concerning that a highly compensated long-term employee did not know about a town investment policy.”