During Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Branson Mayor Larry Milton addressed Ordinance 2021-0124; Milton provided the staff report and said he wanted to share his concerns with the Aldermen.
Milton said that he felt uncomfortable with the ordinance. He showed an ordinance from a meeting “when we all agreed to approve the stipend for all City employees for 2021 and 2022.” Milton said that during the presentation, it was said that the amount of ARPA funds “would not quite” cover the stipend amount and that the difference would be made up in the general fund. “I’ve signed an ordinance that the math just simply doesn’t balance,” Milton said. Milton added that he signed it because if he did not employee checks would not have been distributed; it was promised the checks would be out before Thanksgiving.
In ordinances he has previously signed Milton said the account number for the source of the funds is present with an in and out balance. “This has been the format of every ordinance I’ve ever signed.” Regarding the ordinance, Milton said “all I was asking for was to provide some clarity so this ordinance reflects what the Board approved.”
Milton said this is something he does not want “hanging in my closet” for someone five years from now to see that the Aldermen did not approve it and that the math did not balance. Branson Finance Director Jamie Rouch said they got an attorney to sign off on it, and she recommended it. “Everyone approved of it,” she said. Rouch said there is no statute or ordinance requiring account numbers on budget amendments. The concern, according to Rouch, was brought to her attention the Friday after it passed. “I sent out per your request an email that day.”
Rouch said that the reason why numbers were not on there is that there were more than seven pages of account numbers to address the ins and outs. Rouch said she stands behind the budget amendment she presented. “It was completely transparent, completely accountable.” She said there was no ill-intent.
“I’m not questioning ill-intent,” Milton said. He said the numbers did not match, and he shared his concern with City Administrator Stan Dobbins. An email was sent to the Aldermen explaining the difference, but he wanted an exhibit to show the difference. “I thought that was the simplest request possible.” He said he went back and forth with Dobbins and Rouch via email. “For this to have to come back up to a Board meeting is embarrassing,” Milton said.
“It is embarrassing because I’ve already explained it. You’re getting upset and frustrated with me in a public meeting when I have gone beyond everything that I have to do,” Rouch said. She said the point and purpose of her job is to be transparent with Branson’s finances. She said Milton is listening to someone that does not have the experience that she has to have for her job. Rouch said they did not want to “bog” them down with seven to eight pages of account numbers.
Rouch said accusations have been made against her including “being accused of [doing wrong] in the paper” when it comes to the Special Capital clean audit. She said she has been “accused of so many things” this last year. Milton later said that he acknowledges that he does not give enough credit to the Branson Finance Department and “publicly I’ll say that 100 times.” Milton said he was just asking questions and not making accusations.
Aldermen Jamie Whiteis said that when the books are closed for the month, the proper amount will show up. Milton said if that is reality, he will accept it. After additional discussion, Rouch said that going forward, Milton will not have this problem and that she does not want to go through this again. City Attorney said Milton has the power to veto ordinances and that vetoing is his control mechanism when he has concerns.
Rouch said she will “figure it out” before she left the podium. Milton said he appreciates the Finance Department tremendously. Footage of this discussion is online on YouTube.