Maybe his figures are on steroids.
In fact, the "press conference" looked more like a campaign stunt, a set-up soundbite opportunity to say he was not going to raise the taxes and that he would have a balanced budget. He always looked right at the camera when he said this multiple times. But he didn't say how. So, in fact, we don't know anything more now than we did Friday morning.
First, he provided members of the media with a "daily cash report" dated Wednesday -- before Thursday's weekly "check run" for payments to vendors, suppliers and contractors and before Friday's $3.2 million payroll was issued. Then, he refused to answer when Ladra asked how much of the $9.4 million he said was in the Suntrust account Wednesday was in unencumbered general fund monies as opposed to earmarked enterprise funds like the gas tax revenues or storm sewer utility, which can only be applied to certain expenses and not general operating costs.
"You will have to put that question in writing," he told me, and then basically shut the press conference down. Even though other questions in writing have not been answered and it's extremely relevant to the issue he was talking about. And it's something he should know. So basically, here is the interim mayor and candidate, providing a number that he knows is false, hoping nobody would ask about those things and refusing to answer when someone does. Finance Director Vivian Parks, Budget Director Alex Vega and Water and Sewer Director Armando Vidal -- all standing to the side, presumably to lend the mayor some credibility, but making themselves actually complicit in the smoke and mirrors -- should have known the answer also. But they are not allowed to speak anymore, according to a gag order issued last week.
Hernandez would not answer the second part of Ladra's question, which was to confirm that the "daily cash" in the Suntrust account was actually about $6.2 million today, because it is payday and the payroll takes about $3.2 million. Then I wanted to ask how much Thursday's check run was, to subract it from the $6.2 mil. Then I wanted to ask about how they would make the next five payrolls through the end of the fiscal year, which totals about $19 million. With a shortfall of about $13 million for that, I wanted to ask -- and did put it in writing earlier this week -- what the project revenues are for this month, August and September.
Ladra doesn't think the revenues are going to be enough, judging from trial balances that project this month's accounts receivables at $44,000. Maybe that's why Hernandez wants to take out a short-term credit line. He said it was to have a revolving fund for capital improvements that the city advances funding for while the county or state or federal bond or grant monies come through. So it's a loan secured on the accounts payable from these projects, which he says the city has dipped into the general fund to start and/or complete.
Although he called it his general fund. A few different times.
"We have been fronting $4-$6 million from my general fund," Hernandez said. "When that money money moves back in and out... I'm not comfortable with that." So he will ask the council to take out a line of credit at the next council meeting, he said.
"So I feel better. I don't have to do it... but I'm going to feel very omfortable in case of extreme emergencies," Hernandez said, adding again that he would "put it into my general account.
"I'm going to have it to be there for whatever comes to mind," he said.
Like payroll? Like payments to the vendors whose checks are reportedly being held? Like paying the 16 firefighters who were fired illegally for the five months they were illegally laid off, as ordered by an independent arbitrator?
We don't know. Because he won't answer any questions. But if he thinks this non press conference would relieve the pressure from the media and employees demanding more specific information and evidence, he is even denser than his critics say he is. Ladra thinks it's going to be worse.
Stay tuned to As Hialeah Churns and we will see.