In September, a group of Chapel Hill residents submitted a petition to the Town Council calling attention to several instances in which Town Manager Roger Stancil poorly managed public funds, including wasting large sums on consultants. In this letter to the Chapel Hill News, resident Martha Petty, who was not one of the petitioners, provides additional information concerning Stancil’s mismanagement of the consultant contracts for the Central West planning process. This mismanagement resulted in a huge contract cost overrun. Specifically, the original consultant contract for $90,000 was allowed to balloon to $230,000 before the Manager acknowledged the problem many months later and cut off the funds. When public funds are not properly managed, taxes increase, the quality of government services declines, or both. Here is the letter.
Don’t blame citizens group
This is in response to Eric Hyman’s criticism of the petition mentioned in the article “Stancil defends fiscal management” (CHN,bit.ly/1rm9VQa) regarding the costs of consultants to the Central West Focus Area Steering Committee.
In my 24 years in Chapel Hill, I had not been involved in a planning discussion, but Central West was different because I live fairly close to the area. I had a good opportunity to observe that process.
Mr. Hyman focuses on the increase in the number of committee meetings required to respond to the desire of members of the public to have input in the process, but the petition does not blame Mr. Stancil for increasing the number of committee meetings, but for the arrangement with the consultants.
Mr. Stancil hired the consultants and settled the terms of their employment four months before the committee was seated. It was Mr. Stancil, not the committee, who determined that the consultants would attend additional committee meetings, and it is not at all clear that the consultants contributed much to the process. They offered their own plan without any input from either the committee or the public, and without even walking the property in question. Theirs was not the plan the committee adopted. The committee went with a plan that was quite different from the consultants’ plan, thanks to the input it received from citizens – input it received in great part because of the efforts of the signers of the petition to ensure that citizens’ voices were heard.
In short, the “extra” citizen feedback must have been valuable to the committee, since it relied on that input, and the costs incurred to pay the consultants resulted from agreements made and actions taken by Mr. Stancil without the committee’s participation.