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Local Government

McQuillan, Burns rehash questions about Geneva budget

GENEVA –  The city of Geneva’s proposed budget for 2013-14 contained accounting errors that were corrected two weeks ago, Mayor Kevin Burns said.

But when Bob McQuillan, Burns’ opponent in the recent mayoral race, addressed the council Monday during a budget hearing, he referred to the previous numbers posted online last month.

“We received communication from [city administrator] Mary McKittrick that the figures were revised, based on an accounting error,” Burns said. “That is why we looked confused, because the budget had been revised.”

For his part, McQuillan said he printed out the proposed budget after it was posted online last month and was relying on those figures when addressing the council.

McQuillan rejected the notion that the budget, given in a half-hour presentation and posted online, could be off by more than $5 million because of an accounting error.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” McQuillan said. “They are all highly paid, highly competent staff, and they put a budget – that is not correct – online.”

Aldermen this week approved the city’s corrected budget plan for the next fiscal year, of $83.7 million in spending and $85.1 million in revenue.

As the discussion centered around the erroneous first budget and the corrected second budget, McQuillan asked why no one was notified that the previous budget was incorrect.

Burns said McQuillan could have cleared things up by calling City Hall or his aldermen.

“There is no conspiracy here,” Burns said. “He printed the wrong budget. ... Bob’s passion is admirable, but his points are way off. I cannot and will not sit there and listen to him accuse staff of being liars, deceitful and dishonest.”

Burns said the council’s job is to set policy and steer the city in the right direction.

“Bob wants to find conspiracy in everything,” Burns said. “It becomes exhausting. I do not know how someone can stay angry so long. ... There is no ‘grassy knoll’ at City Hall.”

McQuillan said his questioning of the city’s budget has nothing to do with lingering political aspirations, such as running for mayor again or alderman.

“I’m not angry about anything,” McQuillan said.

But McQuillan said he would continue to ask questions about city spending.

“I’m going to ask legitimate questions and expect legitimate answers,” McQuillan said. “And I’m not going to do it in emails. I’m going to be doing it in public.”

As to political aspirations, he said he had no more.

“I’m probably finished running for public office,” McQuillan said. “People don’t want somebody who is going to hold people accountable and be fully transparent. ... I want to be a resident who is concerned and will hold officials accountable for their actions and their budgets.”

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