Shortchanging the taxpayers
Change in a local governmental office is a classic bad news, good news story.
Generally speaking, change is a good thing, but rarely is it so wonderful for taxpayers as the recent changing of the guard in a low-profile public office in Urbana.
Michelle Mayol, the new township supervisor in Cunningham Township, estimates that her office will save taxpayers $166,000 a year in taxpayers' money.
How? Well, it's pretty simple — Mayol and an assistant reviewed the list of individuals who received monthly $245 general assistance welfare checks and eliminated those who were not legally eligible for aid.
"I will help anybody that I can, but if you don't meet the qualifications that are set in the handbook, you're not eligible," she said.
That seems like a common-sense approach to overseeing public finance. It's somewhat akin to the so-called reform measure that state officials took when they began an examination of the state's financially crippling Medicaid program; they reviewed the addresses of recipients and said they would eliminate non-state residents from the state's Medicaid roll.
Mayol, a longtime employee in the office, said she suspected the general-assistance program was being mismanaged because the number of people receiving assistance had swelled from an average of 70 to 80 per month in 2010 to 178 in 2013. She said that was so inconsistent with the long-term trend that something had to be amiss.
A review of the case files revealed a litany of eligibility issues for many. Only a handful of those who lost eligibility appealed the denial. None of those appeals was granted. Some people didn't bother to show up at the office to review their eligibility while others called to say they no longer needed assistance.
So kudos to Mayol, a longtime office employee under veteran Supervisor Carol Elliott, who opted not to run for re-election last year.
It turns out that Elliott's decision not to run again was the best thing she ever did for the citizens of Urbana. Mayol was too polite to publicly challenge her predecessor's administration, but it's certainly fair to ask what was going on. It certainly looks like Elliott was spending money that wasn't hers like a drunken sailor.
People in need deserve help, and that's what general assistance is about. It's a last-ditch program for those who are destitute and can't get help elsewhere. But being too incompetent, too indifferent or too lazy to enforce the rules surrounding general assistance is a disgraceful way to run a public office.
It's especially important that officials in township government be sensitive to their statutory duties. These offices are mostly invisible to the public; they're a throwback to governmental practice of 100 years ago in a largely agrarian society.
Elliott obviously wasn't doing the job. Mayol is. Change has proved to be a breath of fresh air.