Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: F.C. Treasurer’s Office Can & Needs to Do Better

By Chris Johnson

My name is Chris Johnson and I am asking for your vote on November 4 for City treasurer.

Immediately after filing my papers with the Registrar of Voters on August 15, I began analyzing our Fall Church City’s financial statements. I found the numbers associated with our treasurer’s office didn’t seem to add up. Digging a little deeper, I discovered a finding by our City’s independent auditor. In short, our auditor found that our City has “significant deficiencies” with its finances and lacks certain internal controls (processes, systems, and procedures designed to prevent fraud). I later learned that these “significant deficiencies” have been cited by our independent auditor for years – never corrected, nor publicly discussed or disclosed. Along with other taxpayers and stakeholders in our city and schools, these findings are quite alarming.

Moreover, our City failed to receive a “Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting” beginning in 2010. This is noteworthy because our neighbors – Fairfax County, City of Alexandria and Arlington County – all have received such an award for decades. Yet Falls Church City hasn’t managed to earn such a certificate since 2010.
Last week I attended a candidate forum with my competitor. (You can view the video at www.chrisjohnsonfortreasurer.com). My opening remarks concluded with a summary of the above findings.

During a Q&A session, referring to the “significant deficiencies,” my competitor remarked: “I feel like I threw the Finance Office under the bus a little bit on that control issue. That control issue relates to the fact that we don’t have enough staff in the finance office to have a separation of duties . . the audit, you know, the audit company said, ‘This is too much to have this in one person.’ She can go in there and do all kinds of things. She could wreak havoc, if she wanted to. She hasn’t and they didn’t have any findings of that, but that was their issue with internal control.”

Falls Church City has internal control issues so serious that at least one person can wreak havoc with our City finances…and that fact is treated with ambivalence, withheld from voters, not corrected immediately, and continues?!

I also learned my competitor lacks a college degree and lacks real finance experience outside City Hall. This partially explains the lack of alarm and outrage over such serious financial issues.

I possess the right credentials, independence and financial leadership needed to improve the treasurer’s office. I am deeply independent, which ought to be something voters look for in their financial leaders and city tax collector.

Upon earning a commission in the U. S. Navy, my father gave me important advice. “Always stay in the center and remain independent. Remaining independent will enable you to solve problems without being influenced by the fog of politics.” I have followed my father’s advice – and I am independent. I am so independent that I do not accept campaign contributions or endorsements because these implicitly come with political indebtedness.

As a Harvard MBA, former U. S. Naval Officer in our nuclear submarine service, economic and finance advisor to governments and corporations around the globe, I have the experience to get the job done – and a track record of success.

Admiral H.G. Rickover said “Responsibility is a unique concept… You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you… If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the individual who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.”

The bottom line is that our City can do better and needs to be better. In the area of finance, I will ensure we regain the status of excellence in financial reporting. I will also ensure we eliminate the “significant deficiencies” that have been reported by our independent auditor repeatedly over the past several years.

Our treasurer is the last financial “check and balance” our citizens have in City Hall. As your elected treasurer, I will accept the responsibility of being a financial executive responsible to all citizens of Falls Church City and I also will efficiently implement the tasks now assigned to the treasurer’s office.

With your vote on November 4, we can make our City a better place for all citizens. A vote for Chris Johnson for treasurer will help ensure that our children will inherit a Falls Church City on a firm financial footing with an independent treasurer working for and reporting to you, the citizens of Falls Church City!

 


Chris Johnson is a candidate for City of Falls Church Treasurer.

 

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