FORNEY, Texas — Members of the Forney city council still haven’t publicly explained or answered questions about the city manager’s $1.4 million CARES Act spend plan, as the filing period to run for council began last week.
Following inForney.com’s previous reports of Forney city manager Tony Carson purchasing 22 new vehicles and a subsequent spend plan submitted to the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) for items that totaled an additional $740,000, inForney.com reached out to the entire council and mayor via email with a list of questions. The email read;
Dear Mayor and Council,
As inForney.com continues to investigate and report on the City of Forney’s use of CARES Act Funds, we wanted to provide each council member and mayor an opportunity to respond to questions, as seen below, related to that usage.
1. Following our initial report, during the December 15 City Council meeting, agenda item IX. Council Comments, Councilmen Kevin Moon directed this statement to citizens, “Tony takes direction from all of us. There is not a decision that we don’t know about. There is not an oversight that he goes around. He’s not doing something we just don’t know about,” Moon said.
Is Mr. Moon’s statement an accurate representation of the council body’s understanding, as a whole, of the processes and manner in which the Coronavirus Relief Funds were expended?
2. When and how were you informed of Mr. Carson’s decision, as authorized by council resolution, to purchase 22 new vehicles?
3. Do you believe that the purchase of 22 new vehicles was necessary or that they were a cost-effective manner at responding to the COVID-19 pandemic given guidance by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Texas Division of Emergency Management? Were other cost-effective manners considered, such as, but not limited to, short-term leases or employee mileage compensation?
4. When and how were you informed of Mr. Carson’s approximate $1.4 million Spend Plan submitted to the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM)?
5. At any time, were you notified by the city manager or city staff that TDEM’s auditor, HORNE LLP, had expressed concerns about the city’s initial Spend Plan and that, following a meeting of the three parties, instructed the City of Forney to remove ineligible expenses from that initial Spend Plan? If Yes, please explain.
6. If you were notified of the ineligible expenses, were you aware that funds had already been expended to purchase the 22 vehicles and other proposed expenses from the initial Spend Plan prior to the city submitting the plan to the state for review and approval?
7. As the elected official charged with oversight of the city’s annual budget, do any of the expenses identified in the initial Spend Plan raise a red flag as either not being a cost-effective use of federal funds to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic or as expenses not related to the pandemic at all?
8. While some spending at the city-level had been halted due to pandemic-budget uncertainties, as indicated by Mr. Carson, other spending continued. Do you believe the expenses in this initial Spend Plan, or other expenses deemed ineligible which had been expended, should have taken priority over other important issues facing the city? Not specific, or limited to, but, should it have taken priority over public safety employee STEP pay?
9. Given U.S. Treasury Department guidance, were there considerations to assigning or hiring any employee(s) to be substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency for considerations for public programs such as, but not limited to, utility or rental assistance programs for citizens, small business grants or assistance programs, or assistance to local non-profits such as, but not limited to, the Forney Food Pantry? Were these programs considered or instructed as a priority for the spending?
10. As an elected official, and given the manner in which the Coronavirus Relief Funds were managed, what plans or actions do you take moving forward?
Mayor Mary Penn was the only member of the council to respond.
“Will have information for you after the city council meeting on January 19, 2021,” Penn replied.
According to the city council agenda released late Friday afternoon, the council will discuss CRF funding during their executive session of the their meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening.
Last Wednesday, January 13 was the first day to file for the city’s general election on May 1. Places 2, 4, 6 and the Mayor are up for election.
In the first three days, 2 incumbents and 2 challengers had already filed to be on the ballot according to city officials.
Mayor Mary Penn has filed for another term; she will face challenger John Daniel.
Current councilmen Shaun Myers has filed for reelection for Place 2. Other incumbents Keven Moon, Place 4 and David Johnson, Place 6 did not file last week.
Jason Roberson has filed to run for Place 6. Roberson currently serves on the city’s Economic Development committee.
The last day to file to run is February 12. Candidate packets and application are available through the city secretary’s office.