Q&A with Albert DiMillo Jr.

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Albert DiMillo Jr. is a retired accountant and vocal critic of spending in South Portland. He also is a candidate for the City Council next fall.

DiMillo, 55, hopes to run for the District 4 seat held by Councilor Maxine Beecher, who has not disclosed whether she plans to seek another term.

DiMillo makes a point of speaking almost weekly at meetings of the South Portland City Council and the South Portland School Board. He rarely shies from lambasting city leaders for spending decisions, which he often criticizes as flawed.

His recent targets include plans by the South Portland School Department to ask voters to spend $5.8 million to upgrade South Portland High School and the two middle schools: Memorial and Mahoney.

DiMillo’s resume includes high-level positions at Raytheon Co. and Bath Iron Works’ parent company.

He has referred to himself as a liberal when speaking to the council during public comment periods. But his conservative fiscal views have turned more than a few heads. He often brings handouts and cites his own research of city and school budgets.

DiMillo recently talked about his motivations for running for City Council and his aggressive, often acerbic, style when speaking up at city meetings.

Q: Why are you interested in running for the City Council? Didn’t you take out papers to run once before?

A: I believe that too many bad financial decisions have been made by the current City Council over the past three years that have cost the taxpayers because of their inexperience with financial matters. I believe I will be able to bring substantial financial skills that are lacking on the council.

I took out papers last year for the School Board because of their poor handling of the school renovation project and the budget process, but decided that it did not make sense to run for the School Board, because the City Council has the authority to control the finances of the School Board.

Q: Tell me a little about your background as a certified public accountant.

A: I have a bachelor’s of science in accounting and an MBA and worked for two international accounting firms in Portland from 1977 to 1982.

The first three years, I was part of the audit group, and then I transferred into the tax group. I then worked as a tax manager for Congoleum Corp., which owned several companies including Bath Iron Works.

In 1986 when BIW was sold, I became director of taxes and held positions of assistant to the chairman and chief tax officer until 1994. I then became the director of taxes for two companies in Massachusetts from 1995 to 2006, including 10 years at Raytheon Co., a $20-billion-in-sales defense contractor.

At Raytheon, I managed 16 tax professionals, most being CPAs and tax attorneys. I was responsible for all federal and state income tax compliance, tax planning and federal and state audits. I was also part of Raytheon’s due diligence teams that reviewed and executed over $15 billion in acquisitions and sales of businesses from 1997-2004.

Q: How will that experience help you on the council?

A: I believe my experience as an auditor, my financial experience and analytical skills will allow me to review all city and school financial decisions in a way not currently practiced by the City Council and School Board.

No financial decision should be made without a due diligence review that includes a detailed cost benefit analysis.

Q: You often speak during the public comment period of city meetings. Do you feel you have an impact?

A: I think I have had a very small impact, but not as much as I would like. That is why I want to be on the City Council, to try to get more information and facts out to the public.

I believe that too many spending decisions have been made without all the required facts and that the City Council members do not give adequate explanations as to why they vote the way they do.

Q: You often accompany your talks with charts and quote numbers. How much time do you spend doing research?

A: Over the past 18 months, I would estimate that I have spent about 200 hours researching the school renovation project, school and municipal budgets and the city financial statements.

Q: The school department budget has been a frequent target of yours. Why?

A: I am pro-education, but I also believe there are limits on how much taxpayers should spend on education. I believe the state standards on what communities should spend on education are a good starting point on how much should be spent on education.

My research showed that South Portland’s FY 2009 budget was $7.1 million more than the state EPS standard, while Scarborough’s budget was $600,000 less than this standard.

When I asked the School Board to give reasons why they needed to spend more than Scarborough, they could not give an adequate explanation.

Once I read the audited financial statements, I also realized that the School Board had over-budgeted by an average of $1.6 million every year from 2005-2008 and had accumulated over $4.4 million in surplus as of June 30, 2008. The more I researched the more I concluded that there are major problems with how the School Board prepares its budgets.

Q: People have criticized your style when speaking to the council. You often sound angry and accusatory. Do you agree?

A: Yes, I am angry and accusatory. Taxpayers should be outraged at the poor financial decisions made by this City Council and the impact on their taxes.

Q: What would be your style as a councilor?

A: I plan to explain my position on issues and give facts to back them up and would ask other council members to do the same. This would likely cause friction on the council, because I don’t believe many of their decisions are backed up by facts.

Q: Your focus at council and School Board meetings has been spending. I assume you would take a hard look at budget issues, as a councilor. Are there other local or state policy issues that interest you?

A: My expertise is in financial areas, so my focus would be on all budget and spending issues. I would also look closely at economic development issues and their impact on the city as a whole.

Q: What attracted you to move to South Portland and buy a house?

A: I attended Portland schools through seventh grade and then attended Cape Elizabeth schools through graduation, so first I am from the area. My parents have lived in South Portland since 1987. My wife and I purchased land three years ago and built a house in South Portland about 1.5 miles from my parents.

Q Are you related to the DiMillos that own and operate DiMillo’s Restaurant in Portland?

A: I believe my grandfather and Tony DiMillo’s father were distant relatives, so any relationship is very distant.

Albert Dimillo Jr. speaks criticizes the city for the way it has handled the armory building at a City Council meeting last October. Dimillo makes a point of speaking out at City Council and School Board meetings on an almost weekly basis.

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