Bill Bergman wants to come to the rescue in Chicago.
The director of research for the nonprofit Truth In Accounting, Bergman paid a visit to the city's Department of Finance at the James R. Thompson dressed as Jake Blues of the Blues Brothers in his quest to bring attention to the fact that Chicago's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is missing -- again.
“This is the third straight year bureaucrats have missed the June 30 deadline,” Bergman, who was joined by database manager Shawn Cruce -- dressed as Elwood Blues -- told Chicago City Wire. “We want to know why this report is late every year, particularly given the state’s current financial climate. So, we had John Belushi go down and inquire. With the state in such crisis, we’re on a mission from God.”
In a video of their antics, the two are shown lamenting the city's practice over the last two years of backdating the letter of transmittal of the report before coming face to face with someone in finance who further delays them.
A CAFR is a set of financial reports of a state or other government entity based on accounting requirements outlined by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).
Bergman noted that the June 30 deadline has added significance in the city because it’s also the date the state is on the hook for a substantial payment to the city’s long-troubled teacher pension plan.
“We’ve communicated with local leaders, and we believe the buck for this stops with the mayor,” he said. “We don’t have a policy preference with any of this, but we know something has to be done. Historically, spending has been greater than the amount of money the state actually has to spend.”
Truth in Accounting has been closely monitoring such matters since 2002.
“Our biggest concern focuses on the integrity of all the claims about balancing the budget,” Bergman said. “With the city and state regularly spending much more money than what they take in, we keep a close watch on that. We care about honestly communicating with taxpayers.”