NORWOOD, Ohio — The Norwood Police Department’s financial struggle to procure new bulletproof vests appeared to reach a happy conclusion Wednesday night, when Chief Bill Kramer announced that an unnamed local business would foot the $14,450 bill for 17 new vests.
However, according to a Norwood mayoral hopeful, the department’s budget may have included the money for new vests all along — and neither the department nor the council knew it.
Ken Crawford, a Republican with a Facebook page that touts his ambition to run for mayor in 2019, posted a pair of screenshots Thursday that depict a message sent to the city council from Norwood city auditor James Stith.
“It should also be noted that this Police Department key, with a balance of $19,253.30, has had adequate appropriations available to purchase protective vests, but a PO (purchase order) was not requested,” Stith wrote Thursday in the message, which began with a discussion about purchasing new citation forms. “Given that there has been sufficient appropriations available to purchase protective vests but that they have not submitted a PO request for approval, the controversy surrounding this subject seems ill placed.”
Stith included additional pages depicting a city expense account with the aforementioned sum listened as ‘unencumbered,’ meaning it had not been officially set aside for a specific purpose.
Crawford did not ascribe the lack of funding to malice on the city’s part, but to ignorance.
“My understanding is (that the department) was told no by administration and then went to Council, who didn’t know what was in their own appropriations,” Crawford posted.
Andrew Clark of the Norwood City Council said Thursday night that Stith confirmed the documents were authentic.
Stith said that just because the money is appropriated, that doesn’t mean it’s there. Budgets are put together based on expected income.
The full city budget can be viewed on the Norwood auditor's website.
Councilmember James Bonsall released a statement Friday saying that officials were working to improve the city's financial situation:
"We have great new council members from both parties. We are working together in a bipartisan manner to find ways to address some of the systemic issues that have led the city to our current financial situation. Even though the departments are responsible for knowing what's in their own budgets, I think everybody involved will agree with me that we can all learn lessons from this situation to prevent the confusion from happening again."
Police Chief William Kramer wrote in a statement that the news "took [him] completely by surprise."
Kramer added that the department already owes nearly $9,000 to a business for past uniform purchases. Another uniform company will no longer do business with Norwood because the city is so far behind with payments, he said.
"It is unfortunate that this situation has turned the way it has," Kramer said. "I have been chief for five years and have never at any time had a problem with the council or auditor's office. We have always worked well together before, and my hope is we can again.