Dennis Skey, Brookline Finance Committee candidate
Office sought: Brookline Finance Committee – three seats, one-year term
Name: Dennis Skey
Address: 54 Averill Road, Brookline.
Years of Residency: 16 years.
Family: Wife, Jo Ann; daughters, Katie Oliva and Ashley; sons: Kyle, Matt Oliva and Stephen; grandson, Miguel.
Occupation: Engineering and Business Developer. Vice President Innovation Management Services Corporation.
Political History: None.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, Northeastern University; Accounting AS Degree, Northeastern University; Applied Graduate Courses in Science and Electrical Engineering from UMass, BU, Northeastern University and WPI.
Affiliations: Transparency Committee, Brookline; member of the Sunlight Foundation and Sunshine Review; Carbon Coalition Committee Brookline; first president and one of the co-founders of the Hollis Brookline Football Club. No political party affiliation. Religion, Baha’i Faith; United States Air Force.
Question 1: What is the Finance Committee’s role in making local government more accountable to taxpayers? What would you do as a member of the committee to increase transparency?
The role is adviser. Up to present, I am not sure what that meant. The town has no formal financial policies in place to date, bar the RSAs, which do not instruct on how to conduct a business practice. Nor does the town have a routine or any overseer checking invoices verses business agreements, etc. Last month, Selectman Philpot proposed the first financial policies for the town and the only person on the board to vote against it is stepping down. Thus anyone put on the financial committee should assist in moving the policies into practice. Every citizen is accountable for their governments spending, or so said Ben Franklin. My job will be to help education citizens and to make the information about the towns spending more accessible. Citizens need to understand that we are electing a Republic of 5 people who can spend the taxpayer’s money anyway they see fit, and at the end of the day it is not a democracy. I am not sure this is working for the town, the state or the federal government because there is no transparency. Bottom line , we need to pick our heads up. I know we all are busy but I want assurance, that we the citizens, can go to the website to get any financial record and public data, within the law. Knowing that citizens are watching makes people behave different.
To increase transparency: First, open up the checkbook. Show the town the contracts, police, teachers and construction. Identify why our taxes are going up while services are going down. If we are going to sustain the services we have now, or reprioritize and consolidate services because our demographics are changing, in moving forward, we will need to start thinking outside the box. Having the finances accessible is pivotal to any ideas citizens will bring forward to help improve the community. Second, help create simple rules and policies for procurement. Example, every purchase must have a tracking number. This is simple and easy to add to our current accounting practices. Third, educated the public by producing a, “How To read an Audit Report.” The tutorial explains the independent audit report we purchase every year. Place this on our internet site for citizens across the country to read. Over the years the elected town managers were under the impression that the audit report was “non-public.” In that document, it highlighted that the town’s lack of financial and procurement policies that potentially opened us up to fraud.
Did we have fraud? Well selectmen don’t check the invoices against purchase orders and prices lists. So who is checking? Some town elected officials were using the town’s credit to make major purchases for their private business, at a discount, which was pointed out to me to be unfair because they could low bid when competing for contracts. So are we violating anti-trust RSAs, or enabling a potential lawsuit?
Forth, make sure the audit report is published, in draft form and final copy on our website. I am not sure the town knew there was a draft and then a final. I like tracking defects or bugs because it indicates steps we and other towns can take to gain higher standards of quality in town management. The public should also be aware of what the issues were that then “fixed” before the final draft. This is what I mean when I say transparency. Finally, at the end of the day, the website is our “Town report.” Think database. If we want to reduced spending, then collaboration with other towns, states, federal and foreign governments is our future and information is king in knowing where we stand as we enter these hard economic crossroads.
Question 2: Would you support a move to change the committee to a Budget Committee, which under the Municipal Budget Act, would give it the authority to set guidance in creating the annual budget? Why or why not?
Yes, this goes hand and hand with accountability and transparency. If incorporated we will have people from the town government and school board working together to plan the budget and track spending. My personal experience as a citizen using our current form of government is that the selectmen don’t have time to check the invoices they are paying and budgeting is something they think about in December. With a town our size it is time …”life is change, growth is an option, choose wisely.” Also, we will open up more public input prior to voting. Thus, eliminated the twilight sessions. With the use of the internet as part of my project, I will encourage social media to be used to keep the dialog going all year on spending and government, thus keeping it as democratic as possible.