Newly elected Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced the appointment of three new city commissioners to his cabinet Tuesday, including former Louisville Chief Financial Officer Jane Driskell, who served in various budgetary positions in former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson’s administration for several years.
The official explanation to appoint Driskell as Commissioner of Finance and Administration plays up the financial similarities between Kentucky’s two largest cities and her years of experience, however, Gray’s decision overlooks serious complaints about her administration of the finance department during her last years in Metro government that political observers are sure to point out.
The heaviest criticism came in December 2008, when Driskell retired during the city’s $20 million shortfall in order to collect better retirement benefits before the Dec. 31 deadline. The timing of that decision was slammed in large part because Louisville was facing its worst economic crisis in three decades.
A few months later, Abramson lured Driskell back with a $95,000 salary as the city’s director of the newly formed Office of Management and Budget. Later that year, however, an internal audit revealed the mayor made a mistake when he decided to pay Driskell more for accrued vacation time than Metro policy allowed by authorizing 60 vacation payout days even though city policy caps payout days at 40.
At the time, the Abramson administration defended its actions and blamed the human resources department for failing to properly record the transaction, but later acknowledged that changes to the policy needed to be clarified.
And if Driskell’s legacy in the city’s finance department is being judged, then Gray’s appointment is even more questionable when compared to a stinging state audit report released last year, which found 69 serious problems in the city’s financial reporting practices and its oversight of federal dollars.
From LEO Weekly:
Overall, the city’s 2009 fiscal year budget had significant misstatements on financial reports and the state auditor scolds the Metro government for how it recognizes revenues, including $23.5 million in accounts receivables that could not be supported and $22.6 million in cash collections that were not recorded as revenues when received, but were inappropriately deferred to future periods.
“The effect of the city’s revenue reporting errors is a departure from generally accepted accounting principles related to deferred revenues, according to the audit,” according to the audit.