Derickson K. Lawrence Unveils 4-Point Plan to Reinstate Bond Rating: Will Run for Comptroller
I am Derickson K. Lawrence, and I am running for the Office of Comptroller.
In this letter, I’ll share with you my four-point plan: the roadmap. It begins with why I’m running; and affirms what the challenges are; how we fix them; and, why I am best suited for the role.
l am running for a couple reasons. The first is to bring a sense of urgency and context to the fiscal problems that we face. The second is to demonstrate that we can build a roadmap to fiscal solvency.
Now, I sounded the alarm two years ago in and Oped to The Journal News, and I talked about the issue of state intervention or bankruptcy. This was to warn of the potential crisis if no concerted or coordinated efforts were made to address the problems. Unfortunately, here we are! We have multiple crises. Two years ago, the three issues of mounting debt, late budgets, and gridlock, compounded an already unsustainable set of challenges brought about by the comptroller.
URGENCY (Two key issues):
So today, Mount Vernon residents have seen this movie before. They are tired. They are frustrated. They are saddened.
Most residents are saddened because we just can’t seem to get it together. For starters, if there is no “cash on hand”, or revenue for the first two months of the year, (we are in February and still have no budget) how do you pay the current bills, like payroll? How do you run a municipality? Hence, all the finger-pointing. The second issue is, we are trying to solve our infrastructure problems (e.g., crumpling sewers) with our operating dollars – i.e., the 2021 Annual Estimate. Other cities have the luxury of a capital plan. This is the process where we borrow and pay it back over time. But we don’t have a rating so we can’t borrow. Those are just two of the issues.
ROADMAP: The roadmap, therefore, is to reinstate our rating. Here is my four-point plan.
• First, I am proud to be the person who assembled and led a group of independent citizens to craft propositions under the City of Mount Vernon Charter Revision Commission.
I was the chair of that commission; and you and your neighbors responded overwhelmingly (over 95% of you voted) for Fiscal Accountability and Financial Transparency. That communication was loud and clear. Moody’s cited lack of financial transparency as one of the reasons they pulled Mount Vernon’s ratings. Let us check that box. But that is not enough, the other was open audits.
• Second, we need the right person to execute. What does that mean? We need a fiscal framework around City Hall so we can ensure fiscal compliance and accountability, i.e., the IDA, the URA, the Board of Water Supply and all the other departments - to ensure that they remain audit-ready. Each entity has had its share of issues! Think about it. An independent comptroller must chart that course. We are in 2021, yet 2016, 17, 18, 19 are still outstanding.
• Third, we need to introduce multi-year financial planning. We cannot continue the silos of one year at a time. Today’s budget accounting-gymnastics (some would say gimmicks) still have to be reconciled in the next year.
• Finally, in a phase 2, we need to digitize the effort in a package that brings us in the 21st Century. That means that City Council has one level of access, the mayor has a deeper level of access, and the citizens have a third--inter-active. And there must be automated reporting to the state and other agencies. We are so far from that today.
Why am I best suited? Take the digital products. As a vendor, I have already implemented similar cloud products to City Hall. Regarding the financial:
I have an MBA in finance. And I spent 5 years preparing startups for venture capital firms, and to private equity options for growth. The relevance here is, in that space, the focus is evaluating multiyear financial statements – Income Statements, Balance Sheet, Cash flow; to determine the quality of an investment.
But equally as relevant is my tenure as an auditor with KPMG – one of the nation’s largest accounting firms. This effort involved several independent reviews of multi-client financials to determine GAAP conformity and to assess risks.
So, I understand the value of internal controls, segregation of duties, and compliance.
Finally, I have proven I can assemble the appropriate team of credentialed professionals and execute. Exhibit A- Charter Revision Commission. And, as a former director of management consulting for the Gartner Group, I have the broad skills to turnaround the comptroller’s department.
Our beloved City of Mount Vernon is truly at crossroads, where there is no roadmap. We need a resourceful, and seasoned professional with finance and management experience, at the helm of the Office of Comptroller. That person also needs to be an independent (not an insider), consensus builder, and a problem solver, to work with the key branches of government. I have a demonstrable record of success in all three. If you are tired, frustrated, and saddened, I need your support for us to do better.
ACTION: We can’t win without your support. Voting for the same people gives us the same results.
SUPPORT: Go to: https://www.dericksonforcomptroller.com to hear more about the campaign, or reach me here at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments on the comptroller’s race.
Derickson K. Lawrence for CMV Comptroller