To the Editor:

You know the situation where one person says, “It not about you, it’s me.” This is not one of those stories...

Mayor Driver challenges the assertion I made at the June 22 Flemington Borough Council meeting. I stated that the cost to remove Flemington’s blue line, ordered by Mayor Driver without prior council approval, was excessive, and cost taxpayers 3x the normal rate. She uses the 2018 line striping on Stangl Road to make her point. She stated in her June 24 letter to the editor that “Stangl Road had new double yellow striping put down last year at the request of business owners located there, it cost $0.75 per linear foot. That is the same amount paid for the repainting of the double yellow line on Main Street.”

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Okay, you have my attention. Let’s look at the math...

She wrote that there were “1,553 linear feet of blue line on Main Street and the cost to over-paint this was $931.80.” However, the total restriping bill for Main Street on June 6, 2020, was $4,338.30. That means that the new yellow striping was $2.19 per foot...That is 3x the cost paid on Stangl Road - not including the cost to remove the blue line.

So her math is off. What about the rest of her claims?

She further wrote that I stated that her spending occurred "outside normal procedure." Unfortunately, this spending pattern did occur as "normal procedure" for our Mayor.

Mayor Driver likes to take the position that once council has voted on the annual budget, then she is entitled to spend it, unilaterally; IE: without prior council approval. Ask yourself - does that make sense? Can she just go out and purchase vehicles or professional service at will?

At the June 8 special meeting to vote on a new borough website, Mayor Driver “...confirmed that there is already a budget line item for the website, which is being used to pay the monthly fee to the current provider,” and “that the council just needed to authorize the expenditure” (TapInto, 6/9/20). Alright, so sometimes she needs council approval? Surely, there must be some restrictions, requirements, or a manual to refer to?

A budget is the amount authorized by the council for the purpose of setting annual taxes - and Ms. Driver’s budget was a 1.77% increase over last years budget. The council must approve the budget, but it by no means gives the mayor authorization to spend your tax dollars without council approval...Unless it follows the provision of a purchasing manual, as I noted at the June 22 council meeting, citing State Statute NJSA 40:11. It was then confirmed that the Borough has no purchasing manual.

I reported that our DPW manager informed me that he was directed by the mayor at 4:30 p.m. on June 5 to have the restriping done by the following morning, IE: with no time for two quotes, without notice to our Qualified Purchasing Agent, and certainly without an emergency to warrant the taxpayer expense.

Citing the statute, a Qualified Purchasing Agent may authorize purchases up to $6,000 without two price quotes. It should require an emergency and follow the procedures established in a Borough’s Purchasing Manual. Again, we do not have a purchasing manual, nor was our Qualified Purchasing Agent consulted. I also reported that all purchasing, under state law is cumulative...So, if the borough already has had a company come in and do other striping or road work, or are planning on doing additional striping or road work, each job does not stand on its own but adds up each year. So now the borough should have to go out to bid on the next stripping job or road work.

On June 6, at Mayor Driver’s direction, restriping occurred costing borough taxpayers three times what would otherwise be the cost for restriping. Mayor Driver’s example above well illustrates this. It also occurred without prior council approval. However, on June 22, the council chose to authorize Ms. Driver’s expenditure.

Each year all purchases are aggregated. In fact, the state law is in place to make sure that municipalities don't try and circumvent the bid and quote thresholds. That includes our Mayor. Your taxes go up every year, remember who spent your money.

Accountability is the Council's responsibility. It is clear that our mayor and members of the council do not like transparency, or being held accountable.

Sincerely,

Michael Harris

Flemington Borough Councilman