UPDATE: I added another BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED due to the thoughts expressed in this post.
At the Oshkosh Common Council Meeting tonight, I outlined my problems with the resolution for reimbursement for the historical firetruck that Mayor Paul Esslinger wants to 'donate' to the city.
Point #1: It is not a donation if you want to be reimbursed. It is a purchase. Mayor Esslinger purchased the firetruck, and wants the city to purchase it from him.The fact that he proposes that these funds come not from taxpayers but donors does not change the fact that it is a purchase, not a donation. What we are really talking about is how to finance this purchase. Councilor McHugh compared the firetruck to the Leech and Kimball Auditorium, but neither of those donors required that they be paid in return for their donation.
Point #2: Unlike Councilor McHugh said in his questioning, I was not accusing Mayor Esslinger of corruption. I was pointing out that he was entering a very delicate area, and he should be careful about how he moves forward. I had a suggestion that the resolution should come from another councilor, or that the money should come from city funds. Both of these would allow for a separation from the Mayor that removes future potential questions.
Point #3: I am glad we have the potential of getting the firetruck for the city! I think it will be an asset, but I don't want it a city asset under a permanent storm cloud of controversy.
Point #4: There is a difference between the letter of the law, legal opinions and public perception for public officials. Mayor Esslinger said he received an opinion that he can still run the meeting as they discuss the firetruck reimbursement, just not vote on the issue. But, if you watched the meeting tonight, when Councilor Buchholz suggested a time frame for fund-raising, Mayor Esslinger said, from the Council Dias, "I'd be OK with that." While that is not technically a vote, it is beyond the common sense view of being removed from the process.
Mayor Esslinger should be off the Council Dias, and at the podium like any other citizen while this is debated, which leads to:
Point #5: The resolution should not read "the Mayor" every time that Mayor Esslinger is referenced. It adds to the perception that this is a special deal for "the Mayor." It should read "Paul Esslinger" or "the Owner." So that there is not a perception of a special deal for the position versus the person.
So, with that all in mind, I would word the resolution:
PURPOSE: ACCEPT 1915 FIRE ENGINE / AUTHORIZE REIMBURSEMENT
INITIATED BY: (a council member)
WHEREAS, A 1915 Fire Engine formerly used by the Oshkosh Fire Department became available for purchase and Paul Esslinger stepped forward to secure the purchase of the vehicle and its transportation to the City to preserve it for the City of Oshkosh, and
WHEREAS, Mr. Esslinger has expended $9724.50 for the purchase, transportation and insurance of the vehicle from the time of purchase to the present, and
WHEREAS, the Council previously approved, by Resolution 09-438, the establishment of a fund to accept donations for the purchase and maintenance of the Engine, and
WHEREAS, the fund currently contains $2905.02, and
WHEREAS, Mr. Esslinger would like to transfer ownership of the vehicle to the City at this time, without regard to whether the full amount required to reimburse him for his costs has been raised.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Common Council of the City of Oshkosh that the appropriate City staff are hereby directed and authorized to accept title to the vehicle in the name of the City of Oshkosh and take possession of the vehicle
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Finance Director is hereby authorized and directed upon presentation of documented costs to the Oshkosh Common Council and proper transfer of the title from Mr. Esslinger to pay out the amount of these costs to Mr. Esslinger from the City of Oshkosh's General Fund.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Finance Director is hereby authorized to disperse funds from the purchase and maintenance fund as needed for the maintenance and storage of the Engine once it is in the possession and ownership of the City.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Finance Director is also hereby authorized to continue to collect donations for the historic firetruck to repay the general fund of the City for disbursements made in relation to the purchase and maintenance of the historic firetruck.