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Richmond VA Radiant Light Newspaper

WHO From: L. Shirley Harvey >
Sent: Thursday, December 3, 2015 2:54 PM
To: L. Shirley Harvey;
Subject: Is Somebody Stealing Money from Richmond City?


Good afternoon, Everyone.  As an accountant and versed in administrative process, I was appalled that at this day and time, the City does not have checks and balances for everything especially when other people's money is being used to serve our communities.  You may not think this has much to do with you, but certainly if you put money in the coffers, you expect that it be used correctly to serve us and our children.  Who is taking our money?

I have personally had several situations dealing with a City vendor which was too odd.  This year I had a tax bill of $732.09 which was to be paid before June 25 to avoid additional interest.  I paid it before the due date although it was not cashed by the city until July 14.  On June 23, I received a summons to come to court on September 15, 2015.  The collector, Ballato Law Firm had added on $295.20 for interest and $142.00 for their fee.  My tax bill was only $732.09 and they charged me $437.20 which is more than 50% of what was owed and the bill was already paid.  Who from the City checks Ballato to determine that he is not cheating our citizens?  Why does the City allow the law firm to charge these ridiculous amounts?  Can they not find a collector who would charge less?  When Lenora Reid of the Finance Department contacted Ballato, he took $295.20 off the amount due on the summons.  However, he is still trying to charge me $142.00.  There was no notice that the bill would be sent to the collector.  Also there was no notice as to how much would be charged.

In the early part of the 2000's a senior friend of mine was in tears because the Collector, Ballato Law Firm, said she owed for 1989 and 1991, more than 10 years prior.  Of course that was not possible because monies received goes to the oldest amount owed on the account first.  The city would not admit that a mistake was made and Ballato would not admit he was wrong.  This poor lady had to go back through boxes and boxes of papers over 10 years old until she found the receipts.   Most people would not have kept them.  That whole situation was unnecessary.  Somebody is not keeping up with these records  or are deliberately charging seniors just to get more money out of them.

 There is no tested and proven method to know exactly if the amount paid to the City by the collector is correct.  The collector does nothing except take the citizens to court.    They will take money from bank accounts or from pensions.  There are no other attempts to get the money by phone or letter.  The collector does very little work.   So why is the City Attorney's Office not used? There is no method to know if the collector is stealing from the citizens or the City.  Our money is being trusted to people who should be checked and often.

I believe that the City is fully opened to thievery in cases where our vendors are either paid for work and later the City is reimbursed by the citizen.  There are too many possibilities where employees of the City can profit from decisions they are allowed to make to engage a vendor.  See how many houses were torn down in the last 10 years and which vendor was used to do it.   Why is it that the city cannot take partial payments from citizens on real estate taxes?   For a $25.00  storm water bill, a statement is sent every month even when there is a credit balance.  But real estate tax statements which are for hundreds and thousands of dollars are sent only two or three times a year.  Is the City trying to make the bills delinquent for our citizens who are apt to forget so that they pay more money or their land can be taken?  Reminders should be sent for real estate taxes weeks before it goes to the collector stating how much they will charge.  Are we trying to make the collectors better off financially than the city?  Who decides when to stop waiting for the bill to be paid and sell the property?  Why is there a difference from one taxpayer to the other.  Back in 1995 after checking delinquent lists for real estate taxes, I found Judge James  Spencer's name and at the time I believe he owed about $15,000 on his property.  I took the information to Robert Bobb, the City Manager, and he told me that the city has a selective process fo r going to court.  Bobb said that Spencer was just not chosen for court  In other words, if you are a big shot, you do not have to pay your taxes.  Only poor and middle income people are required to pay consistently.

Somebody is getting our money and we are not benefitting.  The fact that there are at least 15 positions currently open in Finance, makes us all know that something is wrong.  Why do employees in Finance keep quitting?  Where can we find Sharon Judkins or Byron Marshall?  The mayor cannot hold them to a statement of silence if it keeps criminal activity a secret.  Does anybody remember that several years ago, members of Dwight Jones's church took him to court because they didn't know where the money went?  When Jones was required to bring the accounting books to court, a fire just happened in his office and only the books were burned beyond recognition.

Every procedure involving money or a contract to handle City money should be reviewed by someone other than the employees of the City.  While trying to make the city officials (Selena-Cuffee Glenn, Finance Director Lenora Reid and Keith Rogers) aware of the possibilities for the collector to cheat the City and its citizens, they refused to research or investigate my allegations although they promised they would.  It has been more than three months now and nothing to my knowledge has been done to insure that our citizens and the City are not being cheated out of money.  The CAO does not provide supervision over her employees to complete a task.  Because they refused to answer, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg and much more would be found if someone with common sense would do the research. There are too many ways through procurement or purchasing to make money for employees or other influencing parties with kickbacks.  If some courageous persons will demand an accounting of our funds and procedures, we may just find some big problems very quickly and stop the misuse of our money.  We do not want to think of what could be happening with Social Service payments.   Will the City become bankrupt before we do something?   Umesh Dalal, the Auditor will be getting a copy of this letter.  However, I can let you all know that a large number of people could be involved.  If they are members of city council, they could threaten Mr. Dalal's position with the City.problems have been going on for years.  This is the time to stop it.