The City of Rochester has a budget of $526 million. Much of that spending takes place out of the public view. There are no line items in the annual budget book for expenditures such as catered lunches or baseball tickets. City Council doesn’t vote on all business grants and loans.

A good way to examine spending is to obtain the city checkbook registry. Through open records requests, we analyzed the city’s checkbook registries for the final years of the Robert Duffy and Tom Richards administrations, as well as all four years of Lovely Warren’s first term.

This process took months, as the registries contain a combined total of nearly a million checks. We flagged about 150 expenditures and filed open record requests for further information, such as invoices, receipts and contracts.

You can check out the checkbook yourself here by scrolling down to bottom of page.

Here is the result of our analysis:

City Checkbook: Developers Get Grants Without Public Scrutiny – The city has been awarding Community Development Block Grant funds to upscale retail projects. Check out our map of business grants.

City Checkbook: Political Spending – City resources have been used to produce ads funded by political funds. Taxpayer and political funds have also mixed at events.

City Checkbook: Food, Swag and Gifts – Taxpayer dollars have been used for questionable giveaways. Checks for meals and souvenirs indicates some excessive spending.

Citizens have a right to know how their tax dollars are spent. They have a right to expect prudent use of tax dollars. They have a right to demand the highest ethical standards. Transparency is the best means to accomplish these goals.

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