An editorial that the Gazette Mail refused to publish
Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin transparent and accountable to taxpayers?
By Shannon Snodgrass
Mayor Goodwin and the majority of council voted on October 3, 2022 against bipartisan Resolution 726-22 requesting an audit from the State Auditor’s Office to look into pay practices relating to United Talent Agency temporary workers. This audit and any findings/recommendations could have held this administration and future administrations accountable as to how taxpayer money is spent on these services. This would have ensured that what has been discovered recently with two individuals who worked in Mayor Goodwin’s office costing the City $500,000 dollars, if improper, will not occur again.
If nobody did anything wrong, then what is the harm in asking for help from objective experts? The Resolution would have ensured fairness to our valued employees of the City of Charleston and also other individuals who perform temporary work for the City. The City’s pay practices must be transparent and above reproach and the Resolution would have done just that.
The state has the resources and the expertise to perform an audit solely focused on assisting and advising local governments. And this is a local government policy/practice issue with a combination of personnel, finance, public policy, and ethics. It is council’s responsibility as a governing body to provide checks and balances. So, to request this audit is good governance.
Mayor Goodwin asked for a forensic audit on the previous administration but votes NO to a resolution asking the State Auditor’s office do an audit of her administration’s payroll practices. Mayor Goodwin and her chief of staff admitted to having record keeping problems within the City. What the Mayor failed to admit was that two individuals worked in her campaign and now in the Mayor’s office.
WCHS-TV reported September 7 that this arrangement cost the taxpayers more than a half million dollars with no time sheets detailing hours worked. Paid time was included during Covid when City Hall was closed for months. That’s when the Mayor furloughed regular city employees but worked these two temp staffers. Temporary workers should only be paid for direct services rendered. They are not to be paid benefits by the City. Any benefits are to be paid by the employer United Talent. Additionally, if these temp workers have been overpaid the City should be reimbursed.
The two temp workers were paid consistently 40 hours per week. According to the news report, neither missed a day, including holidays and one even worked while on vacation in Hawaii. These two individuals did not miss a day or hour in whether working two years or now for almost four years. It was reported by WCHS that other United Talent temporary workers submit time sheets depicting start and finish times which included a supervisor’s signature for approval for payment.
The Mayor admits to reporting issues but is this more than just faulty bookkeeping? Who supervised these two temp workers and approved their payments?
These two temp workers cost the City more than $500,000 which includes a United Talent commission of 17%. Why not make them full time City employees? I understand that these inflated hourly rates were also to allow them to continue receiving retirement pay from the State. The Mayor’s office claims it has documentation approving the work from the Public Employees Retirement System yet a Freedom of Information Act request reveals no written communication from PERS regarding the two temporary workers in question. Where is the City’s evidence of PERS approving the United Talent staffing arrangement? That compounds the problem of missing documentation at the mayor’s office.
With both of the temp workers volunteering for the Mayor’s campaign why would Goodwin reject transparency and accountability to taxpayers? This is from an administration which regularly trumpets its accountability.
Mayor Goodwin voted NO on the Resolution that would have requested an audit from the State of WV to ensure transparency and accountability as it relates to temporary worker pay practices along with Chad Robinson, Larry Moore, Caitlyn Cook, Jennifer Pharr, Becky Ceperley, Mary Beth Hoover, Joe Jenkins, Emmett Pepper, Bruce King, Brent Burton, Ben Adams, Bobby Brown, Chuck Overstreet, Bobby Haas, Naomi Bays, Keeley Steele, and Bobby Reishman.
The council members voting YES to the Audit were: Shannon Snodgrass, Adam Knauff, Courtney Persinger, Jeanine Faegre, Brady Campbell, Pat Jones and Robert Sheets.
These members believe you have a right to know how the city spends your money.
Shannon Snodgrass is Charleston City Councilmember in Ward 11. She is in her third term and is seeking reelection. In her professional life, she is a physical therapist, and a graduate of West Virginia University.