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Monday, May 2, 2016

Rebecca Fleury Brings Her Bankruptcy Expertise to City of Battle Creek

Battle Creek City Hall

How do you respond to a projected municipal budget deficit? 

Well, if you're Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury, you respond by putting before the City Commission a $227 MILLION DOLLAR "wish-list" hidden in the Capital Improvement Program set to be voted on and approved via Resolution #131  during The Battle Creek City Commission's regular session on Tuesday, May 3.

This financially devastating and irresponsible,response by Battle Creek's new CEO Rebecca Fleury, shouldn't come as a surprise if you do your homework and look at the facts at hand. 

On April 21, 2016  in an article, regarding the preliminary and projected budget deficit, Fleury was quoted in response as saying  "we do know finance works its magic." In response to the projected deficit just days later on April 27, 2016--a $227 Million Dollar 'wish-list' was unveiled in the form of Capital Improvement Program in response to the projected budget deficit. 

One of the projects listed in the $227 million dollar CIP  includes significantly adding costly improvements to the city owned Binder Park Golf Course, which in December of 2015 was facing a budget deficit themselves. So bad the city had to raise fees and sell off land to keep the golf course afloat. 

This is text book of how Fleury handles finances.This appears to be a pattern of Rebecca Fleury and  one needs to look no further than her 2004 Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Filings to see. No fiscally responsible adult would respond to a projected deficit by increasing their debt...unless of course, you are Rebecca Fleury and you consider bankruptcy a viable option. 

In 2004, Rebecca along with her husband Matt, filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on March 24, 2004. This bankruptcy was not due to medical bills or caused by a divorce. According to Court documents  its entirely based on consumerism debts. Less than one month prior to filing for bankruptcy, on Febuary 27, 2004,  Rebecca and her husband had the audacity to add an additional $50,000 by purchasing not one--but TWO new 2004 Hondas on the same day only to add to their already $250,000 of debt they were looking to discharge via bankruptcy!

This is the same behavior we are seeing from the City Manager Fleury now--less than two months before the budget is due and while facing a projected budget deficit, Rebecca goes on a $227 MILLION DOLLAR shopping spree and once again like her bankruptcy; expects the tax payers to pay for it while she take no responsibility. 

No, Rebecca--finance doesn't work it's magic like you seem to think. In fact--finance is one of the very few fields where whatever magic she's talking about doesn't exist, because numbers are numbers and they don't lie. You don't get to magically switch the 'zero' to a '10' in the cities checkbook--or like in Rebecca's bankruptcy case--changing the $300,000+ personal consumerism debt to a 'zero' The $227 million dollars has to get paid for.  The rest of us don't have the luxury of putting our irresponsibility and lack of financial restraint on other people. 

Rebecca Fleury, City Mgr Battle Creek
In Fleury's 2004 Statement of Financial Affairs document filed with Western District United States Bankruptcy Court, lists the Fleury's 2002 income as $79,296.00

The amount of debt and liabilities they were looking to discharge according to court documents was $302,723. In a Motion to Dismiss filed by Region 9 United States Trustee, Saul Eisen; he urges the court NOT to grant the Chapter 7 filing to the Fleury's citing; 

"These debts appear to be, since the debts listed in the bankruptcy primarily, if not exclusively consumer debts within the meaning of 11 USC Section 707(b)." 

He goes further to paint a picture of just how obscene their financial situation was by outlining line item expenses and how the debtors could file Chapter 13 and pay off 62% of their debt in 36 months or 100% of the debt in 60 months by following the Chapter 13 plan. "In deciding a motion to dismiss in a 11 USC Section 707(b), the Court can also consider the alternatives available to the debtors, including 'good old fashion belt-tightening' " 

He describes the Fleury's expense budget as including "generous monthly allowances" and that their expenses "appear to be overstated and unreasonable." pointing to the fact in the motion that even in spite of knowing the magnitutude of their debt they went out and purchased two brand new Honda motor vehicles less than four weeks before filing for bankruptcy. Eisen also cites how they have no equity in their $175,000 home and instead of finding more affordable housing for $1000 a month they are in "essentially paying really expensive rent to live there."  

It was also listed that from Feb 2003-Nov 2003, Rebecca Fleury had a small  scrap-booking/craft business d/b/a called "The Scrap Shack." In the eight months of the existence of the business Fleury accrued over $45,000 in debt, which is among a portion of the over $300,000 total she was looking to get discharged via Chapter 7.

Even while faced with Chapter 7 bankruptcy and after reaffirming the debt on both new vehicles, they also reaffirmed the debt on a 1999 Smokecraft boat and trailer they owned, valued at $68,000 In the reaffirmation notice on the boat, their attorney signed a statement that "the reaffirmation does not pose a undue hardship on debtor or dependent of debtor" 

The government responded back with the common sense rationale that: "If so these funds [for the boat/trailer] should instead be available to repay the unsecured creditors because no hardship would result."   In the Debtors (Fleury's) Response to Motion to Dismiss, they actually defend their obscene spending habits and its not until the very end they finally decide to surrender their boat. You can see yourself how unwilling they were to cooperate and work with the courts to pay off even a portion of their debts by "tightening their belts" and filing Chapter 13. 
"This unrestrained spending during the
months prior to filing bankruptcy constitutes a lack of good-faith and independent grounds for dismissal of this case." 
The government concluded its motion to dismiss by stating: "Wherefore since the debts listed in the bankruptcy petition are primarily consumer debts, and since the debtors have the ability, once their income and expenses are correctly reported, to repay all or a significant portion of this debt in a Chapter 13 over three-years and since the debtors should have known not to purchase new vehicles in 2004 so soon before filing bankruptcy, permitting the Debtors to obtain a discharge under Chapter 7 would constitute a substantial abuse of the Bankruptcy Code under In re Behlke, 358 F .3d 429 (6th Cir. 2004) and In re Krohn 886 F .2d 123 (6th Cir. 1989). For this reason, The United States Trustee for Region 9 (Michigan/Ohio) respectfully moves this court to conduct a hearing on this motion and to dismiss under 11 USC  Section 707(b), the Debtors petition for relief under Chapter 7." 

The spending habits of Rebecca Fleury outlined in the bankruptcy court documents are obviously warning us about her behavior. The arrogance, entitlement and outright financial obscenity are offensive to say the least--but add to the fact that this woman has a degree in finance and you would expect, she would know better than most how to balance a check book. 

Her background in finance only adds to the offensive nature of this. The offensive nature only continues to increase when you add in that she learned NOTHING from this bankruptcy and is willing to drive the city of Battle Creek down the same path due to her selfishness, entitlement and lack of financial common sense or restraint by presenting to the commission on Tuesday night; with a straight face mind you-- after admitting to knowing the city is facing a deficit, a $227 Million dollar "wish-list" disguised in the Capital Improvement Program. Just like her bankruptcy-she's not going to have to pay for the $227 million dollar CIP. 

Since the shelf life for a city manager in this area is about five years- she will be long gone, stiffing the taxpayers once again with the bill for damages her financial destruction will leave behind.   

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. And come Tuesday night, I don't know what will be more obscene and insane, Rebecca's response to a budget deficit with the $227 million dollar CIP or the city commission who will rubber stamp and approve this nonsense. 

We have reached out to Rebecca Fleury for comment but as of publication, have not heard back from her. 

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