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Fighting Fraud: Advice for Smaller Cities

Whatever their size, all state and local governments must contend with the possibility that federal grant money or taxpayer revenues will be siphoned off by perpetrators of fraud.


While many of the defenses against fraud are similar, there are some cautions that particularly apply to smaller communities.


Recently, in an interview that appeared on Route Fifty’s October 11 “Follow the Money” broadcast, City Manager José Madrigal, talked about the effort to fight fraud in Durango, a city of 19,000 in a rural county in the southwest part of Colorado. We just posted that full 20-minute conversation in the Special Video section of our website, but wanted to highlight a few of Madrigal’s comments which are particularly germane to the 19,000 cities, towns and villages with fewer than 25,000 people.

The following edited comments occur toward the end of the broadcast, slightly after the 15 minute mark.


The hazards of personal connections in a smaller community: Madrigal said, “Connection can be a really great thing because, you know, with that small town feel, everybody knows each other. My kids go to school with a lot of my co-workers kids. They sometimes hang out. We’re very well connected and sometime with that personal connection comes a letdown in your guard.


“You know the person. Our kids play soccer together and they play basketball together . . .You start building all of these social connections. In places where you may not be personally connected, it’s easier to be a little more suspicious."


On learning from larger communities: Madrigal remarked that cities with smaller populations could still model themselves on bigger cities and not view size as a barrier. “Some people who have not been in a bigger city have this shield. ‘Oh, no. Can’t do that. . . They have more resources than we’ll ever have.’


“I think there’s ways where you can scale a lot of those things. I may not have a 30-member accounting department, but I have 15 and I can be able to do some things in a better way.


“I think sometimes the bravado of coming from a small town or representing a small town (makes us think) we can’t do it like bigger towns. There’s a lot of processes that are out there that I think you can definitely scale down so as not to be intimidated by the processes of bigger areas. Look at them and say. ‘What can I bring in?’"


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