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By Kristina Pritchett

A lengthy discussion seeking to clarify the objectives and jurisdiction of the Finance Review Committee (FRC) broke out among Council members during the March 7 meeting.

In January, Mayor Debra Lewis introduced a concept of revamping the FRC into a financial watchdog group. From there, each Council member chose a resident to serve on the board. The FRC met for the first time on Feb. 27 and selected the chair and vice chair. Along with the nominations, they also discussed the purpose of the committee.

Also during that meeting, FRC member Toni Nelson said she had been in talks with Lewis—who appointed her to the committee—about what the mayor would like to see the committee do.

On Tuesday night, Councilman Joe Muller said he had concerns about the committee and how the guidelines were set up.

“There’s a lot of things in here I want to talk about,” Muller said. “There are five people up here that are making this discussion and you can’t shut us down and then go behind the scene and have a conversation. I find that troubling.”

Lewis said she has a right to speak to members of the public.

Councilman Rick Viczorek said he was under the impression the committee was going to be a watchdog committee, which is something he agreed to having in the city.

“I think we should have a watchdog committee,” Viczorek said. “I expected something to come back talking about their role and how they would carry it out. There are some questions that I have that are unanswered.”

He stated the committee should have access to documents but as a watchdog committee, they should be looking for fraud, waste and abuse.

Councilman John Tomlinson said he shared some of Muller’s concerns.

By the end of the discussion, Viczorek motioned to make those changes to the documents including saying that the committee will serve as a watchdog committee and not a policy-making committee, and that before the committee can have access to documents, they must have a majority vote to do so. The last change was that the committee will meet quarterly but can meet more often if they vote on it.

The Council voted unanimously in favor of the changes, and many members said they were excited to see the committee moving forward.

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