Any better conclusions than that? Seriously, after the huffing and puffing and bluster that the News Journal and his critics were trying to mislead people or trying to hurt him or trying to delegitimize his function in office — Treasurer Chip Flowers finally meets with the News Journal and what we find out is that he really is that incompetent. And we find out that records requested by the NJ under FOIA have conveniently gone missing. From this morning’s NJ, where Flowers admits that there are financial records missing from his office:
Flowers has not provided records explaining a reimbursement of Alaska expenses charged to Delaware taxpayers about 10 months earlier because he says they are missing, and so are records for another state-paid trip to Vermont in 2011. Flowers has released limited documents requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Act from his travel and says he can’t provide others because he can’t find them.
Got that? In one of the smaller state offices, but one that is responsible for managing the cash flow of the state, the State’s Treasurer says he can’t find budget expenditure information from ten months ago. Yet he has spent — how long?– ostentatiously blaming everyone else for the fact that he does not have adequate controls over his own staff accounting operation. Which is what I said from the very beginning. If you are responsible for a budget, you make sure that there are controls to ensure proper spending and reimbursements AND that there is a paper tail for all of that for audit purposes. None of this exists in the Treasurer’s office and who knows how accurate his operating budget is.
And the lying continues:
Flowers said last week that he is working with the Attorney General’s office to investigate the missing documents and other problems with financial records in his office that he blames on a former employee. Flowers said the inquiry could lead to a criminal investigation.
But a state Department of Justice spokesman said Friday that state prosecutors are not looking into any criminal matter with Flowers, or reviewing any case of missing documents.
Right? Still blaming it all on some other employee, when if Flowers had done what pretty much every supervisor does and reviewed Benner’s credit card reconciliations himself, he might not be in this difficulty. But here’s what he has to say about even providing documentation of Benner’s charges:
Flowers now argues because Benner paid those charges, there is no reason for his office to search for documentation or to prove the charges were legitimate state expenses.
“That may not sit well with you guys,” Flowers said in an interview. “But from our perspective, we thought they were business, and all the additional evidence you would like, we don’t have to spend hours and hours and days. We don’t have to do it.”
If they were business charges — and Flowers keeps insisting that they are (while making sure that Benner reimbursed those charges back to the State, got that?) — then you should be able to document that. If these were approved, then disapproved, then approved, then disapproved, then how did all of that decision-making happen with no backup?
Asked last week about Benner’s trip to the lodge, Flowers said “I think we have a good idea who she met with.” Flowers said he is “fairly certain it was legitimate,” and added that he was “fairly certain” of “one or two” banks that Benner met with while in Talkeetna.
“I think there is a zero percent chance that any abuse happened in Talkeetna,” Flowers said.
Fairly certain. So this means there are no After Action reports from this meeting, documenting all of the strategies and other pitches made to improve the return on the State’s money, right? How is that, exactly?
And we still have Flowers not cooperating with the Department of Finance on this:
Kristopher Knight, the director of the state Division of Accounting, also says his review into Flowers’ office practice is ongoing. Knight has been critical of Flowers’ handling of questionable credit card spending.
“The Division of Accounting has been reviewing charges in the Treasurer’s Office for several months and has not received a final accounting from that office of the itemized charges that violated state travel policy and that have been reimbursed by Ms. Benner,” Knight said.
He has specifically blamed the Department of Finance for not doing the job that Flowers should be doing — owning his budget and watching how his employees spend against it.
And this is specifically disturbing:
He said he believes he has acted properly, and has been transparent with state officials and the public about his travel and problems in his office.
“Let me tell you what the issue is,” he said. “I think Flowers had a personnel issue that this has brought to light and the treasurer has been upfront and candid about it. We have procedures that we are going to correct.”
“Unlike most politicians, I don’t run from our problems,” he said.
Because he has demonstrably not acted properly here, has mismanaged his own office to the point where they can’t find budgetary records or even properly reconcile credit card spending, hasn’t been upfront or candid about anything to date, and has been running away from these issues specifically by spinning up blame for his office’s problems. So far, a retired employee, the Department of Finance, and the News Journal have been at fault for this. He has questioned the motives of everyone who has asked questions about this and spun up a phoney investigation (how much did that cost?)that was meant to deflect blame from his office. And at no time has Flowers said that he has screwed up here and that he’d just fix it. Apparently he is incapable of personal accountability, and we just can’t have this in government, especially not in an office that requires a high trust component like managing the state’s cash flow. I think that Chip Flowers just needs to resign and try again when he has better management skills and a better appreciation of what Good Government looks like.
By Request of commenter Nuttingham, the video from the NJ: