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Lutfy takes Caridi and Wagner to task


November 2, 2011

The heat is being turned up in the race between challenger Democrat Pam Lutfy and the two incumbent commissioners Republican Rich Caridi and Democrat Karl Wagner.

Lutfy, who gained a place on the ballot through write-in votes, in two ads in The River Reporter and the Pike County Dispatch lists four examples of what she implies as poor management. “You do the math,” she said, after listing examples of over-budgeting and over spending.

The over-budgeting occurred, she said, in “planning initiatives” and “salaries for the election office.” The over spending occurred in budgeting “professional services” and “recycling.”

Lutfy cited three independent audits by Zelenkofske Axelrod, LLC for 2007, 2008 and 2009 that found “various county transactions went unreported.” Quoting the audit further it says, “The county did not have procedures in place to ensure initial eligibility forms were properly completed.”

Finally, she quotes the conclusion of the audit. “There were ‘significant deficiencies’ and ‘material weaknesses’ with internal controls and reporting.”

“Anyone can employ misleading statistics to deceive an audience,” Caridi said in response. “Pike County’s budget is balanced and has not had a tax increase for the last three years.”

Caridi cited the fact that Standard and Poor increased Pike County’s bond rating from “A” to “A+” and he quoted Raymond Lowery, an advisor with PNC Capital Markets, when he said, “Pike County will be debt free in 11 years.”

Wagner, calling her attacks a “non-issue,” took each of the four criticisms and showed that he and Caridi were not remiss in management.

“The 2010 Pike County budget… contained what the commissioners estimated would be monies spent and monies received during the calendar year 2010. It was, and could only be, an estimate,” Wagner said.

Wagner added that in the midst of an economic decline the commissioners finished the calendar year 2010 with a $1.6 million surplus, which was carried over and used in calendar year 2011.

Who needs facts when you can just make 'em up?

Rich Caridi is right: “Anyone can employ misleading statistics to deceive an audience” That is exactly what HE is doing, not what Pam Lutfy has done.

He takes credit for the S$P upgrade of Pike County's bond rating, but the commissioners had NOTHING to do with any the reasons for the upgrade (which is likely to be reversed since the reasons have evaporated: rail and road upgrades are not likely now, and our population and probably our income level has declined.) Why did Standard & Poor's upgrade Pike County?:
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Abstract: NEW YORK (Standard&Poor's) June 29, 2010 --Standard&Poor's Ratings Services raised its underlying rating (SPUR) on Pike County, Pa.'s general obligation (GO) debt to 'A+' from 'A' based on strong and sustained economic growth and diversification to the tax base. At the same time, Standard&Poor's assigned it's 'A+' rating to the county's series 2010A and 2010B GO bonds. The rating reflects our opinion of the county's road and rail access to the diverse employment bases of northern New Jersey and New York City and a rapidly growing population, which we believe will translate into additional tax-base increases. Also supporting the rating is our view of the county's good resident income and strong wealth levels, as well.

Primary Credit Analyst: Timothy Barrett, New York (1) 212-438-6327; timothy_barrett@standardandpoors.com
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The fact that Pike County's budget is balanced is a matter of law. merely complying with the law is not grounds for re-election or self-congratulation.

Elsewhere in the Caridi ad that was run in many papers this week he indicates that the auditors gave the "highest type of opinion". True: Pike County got the exact same auditors opinion that Enron got just before the declared bankruptcy and that the city of Bell, California got just before they discovered massive fraud and the huge compensation packages for it top officials. That news does not make me feel better. To me the most serious issue is repeated audit findings as was seen in Pike. When an auditor reports a finding, and it is not resolved by the next audit, the County is not being soundly manged.

Why were the audits not posted on the website? Why were all the audit findings never disclosed to the public? Why is it so hard to post a budget online?