Chair purchase raises procedural questions

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BEACON FALLS — The purchase of an office chair by First Selectman Christopher Bielik led to questions from the Board of Finance this month.

The purchase order for the chair, which cost $680, was created shortly after Bielik had won the election on Nov. 5, but before he was sworn in on Nov. 15.

Bielik said he sought to buy the chair because there was none in the office.

According to the minutes of the finance board’s Dec. 17 meeting, Treasurer Michael Krenesky took issue that the chair was purchased in the final week of the previous administration and didn’t sign the check.

He was also concerned the money was not originally budgeted for that chair.

Krenesky said, according to the minutes, that he refused to sign the check because he did not think that it was a proper use of town money.

According to the minutes, Board of Finance Chairman Jim Huk said the treasurer was not allowed to make a judgment call on how money is spent, if the money is available in the department’s budget line.

The money for the chair falls under the office supplies line item, which Huk said, in an email, is appropriate for that expenditure.

Huk questioned if Krenesky had overstepped his authority and whose role is it to stop a town check, according to the meeting minutes. He said the role of the treasurer isn’t clear and needs to be better defined.

In an email, Huk said from his perspective a department head signs off on a purchase, as it’s his or her budget, the selectmen sign off for oversight and the treasurer signs to ensure the funds are available.

“Whether or not the treasurer should have the authority to refuse to sign, potentially holding the payment, for any reason beyond fund availability needs to be explicitly stated, via policy or ordinance,” Huk said in an email.

Huk said in the email he is pushing to get more clarity going forward so the purpose of each signoff is clear.

Board member Jack Levine felt a first selectman-elect does not have the authority to make a purchase before he was formally sworn in as first selectman, according to the minutes.

However, Bielik said, officials checked with the Secretary of the State’s office and were informed that a first selectman-elect has the power to transact certain business before being officially sworn into office. The purchase of office furniture falls into this category, he said.

Bielik said Krenesky signed the check for the purchase of the chair at the end of the meeting.

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