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Gary Mayor Jerome Prince

Gary deals with coronavirus pandemic with finances in disarray

Contributed By:The 411 News

Mayor Prince says after 100 days, he released city comptroller from her duties

Gary's city council held its Tuesday night meeting via Zoom, the online video conferencing technology that has been adopted worldwide to help people stay connected while sheltering in place and staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday's meeting came the day after the May 4th relaxation of stay-at-home orders in Indiana that had shut down gatherings of more than 10 people since March. Those orders had put on hold government operations like city council meetings.

Even though Gov. Eric Holcomb was reopening the state, he said Lake and Marion counties wouldn't open until May 11, and Cass County not until May 18. Those 3 counties were still seeing increases of Covid-19. The governor said he would leave it up to those local governments when to restart their economies.

Anticipating the council's return to regular meetings soon, Councilman Cozey Weatherspoon asked his fellow councilmembers to start thinking about how those meetings will be held while still observing the 6-ft physical distance guidelines. "It will be hard to do in the council chambers. I'm thinking we will have to go back to the Genesis Center," he said.

Tuesday's agenda was short. The council approved several ordinances on third and final reading. C.P.O. 2020-12 was approved, allowing Mayor Jerome Prince to rename various executive departments of the city and amend salary and operating budgets.

The council approved C.P.O. 2020-17, allowing a new fund and department budget for the Gary City Court's Second Chance Enhancement Program.

C.P.O. 2020-18 was approved, appropriating 2020 operating expenses for the city.

C.P.0. 2020-19 was approved, appropriating 2020 operating expenses for the Gary Commission for Women.

C.P.O. 2020-21 was deferred. The ordinance would have amended the city code on public restrooms in gasoline service stations.

Mayor Prince told the council that an announcement will come from his office Friday for the opening of Gary's economy. "Friday at 11:30, we will conduct our weekly update and share the preliminary plan that we have for opening our city as well as some direction for business entities and churches." It will include guidelines for city hall employees coming back to work.

Besides Covid-19, Mayor Prince said the city's financial situation is the single most important issue. The mayor said Gary finances are in such disarray and had led him to release the city comptroller from her duties.

City Comptroller Angelia Hayes was a carryover from the previous Freeman-Wilson Administration.

"Her responsibility is providing this administration with an accurate accounting of our finances, and after 100 days, she simply was not able to do it to the satisfaction of this administration," Mayor Prince said.

The mayor assigned Chief of Staff Arlene Colvin to acting comptroller and hired Cender & Co., an accounting firm to take over the finance department's fiscal operations.

The mayor said he had worked with Cender at the county level and prior to his administration, the company had helped a number of the city's departments. He said a search for a new city comptroller will come, but couldn't give a timeframe.

"When we took office, there were bank reconciliations that hadn't been done in over a year. The old comptroller and some of her staff were tempted to do it. I got notice today that those bank reconciliations are largely irreconcilable," Mayor Prince said.

Prince said the council will receive a report on the city's finances in 3-4 weeks. "In addition to receiving the report, it certainly is going to cause for some action of this body."

Story Posted:05/07/2020

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