March 9, 2009

Maack leads charge on expanding oversight of mayoral spending

Mayor Gary Becker’s legacy may be more paperwork for city officials planning to travel.

The city’s Personnel and Finance Committee voted Monday night to draft a travel policy for employees to get reimbursed for meals, hotel rooms and airplane tickets for city business. The proposal may set limits on travel spending and formalize oversight on travel spending.

The committee also voted to draft policies regarding the mayor’s monthly car and phone allowances, and to review expenses from the mayor’s office on a quarterly basis.

Alderman David Maack brought the proposals forward. He said he had concerns about how Becker spent money as mayor and wanted more oversight of how future mayors and city employees spent money.

“I don’t see it as good practice not to have a policy in place,” he said.

Perhaps the most serious concern Maack raised was a $300 a month car allowance Becker received. The mayor unilaterally instituted the allowance in 2008 to replace the mileage payments he had received in the past. Becker, apparently, didn’t like fill out the paperwork that came with the mileage reimbursement.

Maack said he didn’t have a problem with the allowance. But he was concerned Becker changed the policy without seeking approval from City Council members.

“What I object to is it didn’t come through the council,” Maack said. “At a minimum it should have come to the finance committee for approval.”

Finance Director Dave Braun said he “wholeheartedly” agreed with Maack’s assessment.

But Maack didn’t get a receptive audience on all points. One of the biggest problems he ran into was the lack of wrongdoing by Becker in how he spent the mayor’s budget. Braun supplied the committee with Becker’s spending records. He said there didn’t appear to be any problems.

That left the committee wondering if the new policies were a solution in search of a problem. Alderman Bob Anderson said he didn’t want to “handcuff” the mayor with unnecessary policy. Maack responded he saw the policies as oversight, not handcuffing. (That led Mayor Tom Friedel to quip: “I wish they’d stop using that term.”)

Alderman Sandy Weidner, who sat in the crowd, seemed skeptical of Maack’s proposals, and pointed out a possible discrepancy in the committee’s discussion and what was posted on the meeting’s agenda. The agenda said the committee would discuss the mayor’s spending, but conversation drifted to include all employees. Her point, while possibly correct, was ignored.

She was joined in the audience by Alderman and mayor candidate Greg Helding. Police Chief Kurt Wahlen was also there.

Friedel, former chairman of the Finance committee, supported all of Maack’s proposal except one that would have required the City Council president to sign off on the mayor’s travel spending. Friedel said there were sufficient safeguards in place for travel reimbursements, and noted travel by elected officials is an important part of their job. Becker traveled the Coastal Management Group’s meetings and brought back $400,000 in grants to the city since 2004.

Maack’s motion for the City Council president sign-off died for lack of a second by the committee.

The three proposals that did pass now need to be written and approved by the committee and the full City Council to take effect.


  1. Alderman David Maack is showing great leadership in the oversight issues. Good going.

    Mayor Friedel, Becker brought back 400K wow so maybe we should drop the charges? 400K in Grants himself then why do we have a Grant writer? The first one I see is gone to MATC.

    Now has Becker's spending been looked at to see if any money he owed the City has been paid back?

  2. Alderman Maack is covering his butt.

  3. Maack is milk toast.

  4. Good for Maack. Too bad the others are operating just like they always have. Friedel doesn't want extra eyes on the Mayor's spending so the aldermen just step in line.

  5. Safeguards in place for travel reimbursement, didn't they discover AFTER he was arrested what the cost was of the hotel he was supposed to stay at in Washington DC and that he could have gotten a room for much less (good safeguard, day late and a dollar short). 400k in grants, nice but HOW MUCH has this city lost due to crime, unemployment, poverty, etc....

  6. Mayor Friedal was Becker's top lap dog. I am very happy that Maack is fighting back.
    Thinking that Helding will join forces with Maack on this one. The good old boy network MUST be put down or The Red Army under Peter K will do it for them.
    Perhaps Mayor Friedal is all ready in the Bunker hoper that Army Group DRC and Army Group RCEDC will save him and the other Becker Good Old Boys.
    Sorry not happening.

  7. I'm all in favour of cost control, but going after the mayor's T & E budget is pennies compared to using non-sustaining federal funds to support policing activities should be the focus.

  8. Where was Maack all those years that HE was a "lap dog"? If he, and Freedel, were on the committee, why weren't they watching it then? Oh yeah, it matters now.

  9. Maack was never one of Becker's lap dogs.

  10. anon 8:06 AM, it's milquetoast--named after a timid cartoon character. Milk toast means bland and boring. so, maybe you did mean that? Okay, I'll shut up on that now.

    Anyway, Colt, maybe you should keep in mind that with Pete you wouldn't get a "red army" but you sure would get a whole lot less frivolous spending. Part of being Green is not wasting money.

    But, my real question is; why didn't they question Becker at the time he did this? Every alderman who didn't question Becker on this should stand forward and tell everyone why they didn't. Did Helding ever question Becker's spending on travel? What about any of the other mayoral candidates?

  11. The only alderman I know that questioned Becker's spending was Jeff Coe. It wasn't that long ago either, it was at the last round of budget meetings back in October or November I think.

    As I recall from watching it on Car 25 - none of the other aldermen supported him or encouraged any examination of the mayor's budget at all.

  12. Compared to everyone else tis a Red Army not as a left wing bs like Obama but as an unstoppable juggernaut bringing justice in its wake.
    The army will find out where the bodies are buried and who put them there.
    Stalin willing we can have public trails on Car 25 followed by firing squads. The Army Groups DRC and RCEDC can not save the Bunker!

  13. Becker traveled the Coastal Management Group’s meetings and brought back $400,000 in grants to the city since 2004.

    Well he should, that is his job. It does not give him or any future mayor the right to abuse spending.

    Does staying in a expensive hotel bring grant money to Racine...hell no!

    If the mayor is doing his/her job, they should not be sitting in motel/hotel rooms, they should be out doing their job! The hotel/motel is there to get some rest, clean up and have at it the day.

  14. I couldn't take the scrutiny, so I'm pulling out of the race myself........ Kudos for Coe!!!!

  15. I have to agree with those who wonder why these things were not exposed long ago? Why did finance not speak up at the time and question the mayors spending? Maybe finance is the one who needs investigating?