Swim club payments without city contract wrongful arrangement

Williamsport City Council’s finance committee found out last week that a swim club using Memorial Park Pool received $4,200 in taxpayer money without council’s authorization or a signed contract.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said the facts that came out at the finance committee’s meeting represented the first time he was aware of them. He added that a contract was not needed because the situation was similar to paying lifeguards.

Time will sort out all the facts, but nothing about this arrangement strikes us as the correct way to do business with taxpayer money. City Council is supposed to control the pursestrings of city government, but it can’t do that if money is being paid without authorization or a signed contract.

Perhaps more seriously, writing checks to the swim club, WAVES, for coaches, rental fees and lifeguards opens the city up to liability issues should anything go wrong at the pool.

“We’re not accusing anyone,” Councilman Randall J. Allison said. “We need to follow the facts and see where it leads.”

That’s a laudable, mature approach. But on the face of it, the city is paying an entity taxpayer dollars without a contract or council knowledge.

That’s not a good look when the city is struggling to maintain a public pool and battling every day to stay within the framework of a very tight general fund budget.

If the city is going to set aside money in future budgets to pay for the things this money went toward, then everyone needs to know about it publicly, it needs to be discussed publicly and the decisions need to be made publicly as part of the city budget.