To the editor,
This November residents of Prospect are facing a key moment in Prospect’s history. We are presented with a choice of whether to continue with the current administration which has failed us from a fiscal perspective or replace it with a new administration that can come in with a fresh perspective and willingness to be transparent.
As far back as 2014, there was mismanagement of at least one account, a payroll account. In response to an investigation in 2017 into transactions made from the public works employees salary budget to pay outside vendors and non-public works employees, the only explanation provided by Mayor Robert Chatfield was “human error.” The vague answer makes the response appear as if the mayor is hiding information. At the very least, it foments mistrust.
Instead of learning from this mistake and instituting corrective procedures, in 2016, the mayor campaigned against charter revisions that would have put financial reforms in place. How can we trust an administration that refuses to learn from its mistakes and demonstrates no accountability with our tax dollars?
Fast forward to 2020. After at least a year of secrecy, the mayor finally informed the Town Council and the public of the theft of over $250,000 from a payroll account. This theft has highlighted the fact that Prospect has been operating for four decades without any financial controls or oversight. This has been verified in a recent independent risk assessment, which was done as a result of the theft. It was only at the insistence of the Democrat council members that the risk assessment went back to 2014.
We know the theft was from a payroll account. Until recently, all payroll was done in-house and was not performed by a payroll service. The town has major problems with respect to accounting when it comes to payroll. Unfortunately, the administration chose not to fully cooperate with the risk assessment and did not provide all the requested documentation. The report states:
“Payroll: Based on our review of the payroll process, we noted the following:
The Town was not able to provide payroll registers for individual pay periods detailing gross wages, deductions and tax withholdings. Additionally, we were not provided evidence of a review of the payroll registers by someone independent of processing payroll.
Two of the payroll samples selected were related to overtime for hourly employees. One timesheet was not provided and for the other timesheet, there was no evidence of review and approval.”
In the risk assessment, eight out of ten areas audited are considered high risk. The report uncovered major flaws in the administration of the financial responsibilities of this mayor.
The Republican response was made clear at the Sept. 7, 2021, Town Council meeting.
Council member Megan Patchkofsky: “The confusion with the Policies and Procedures is that the Policy and Procedures document wasn’t in place for the time period they investigated.” Really? Are they complaining that it’s not fair to judge their policies and procedures because they had none?
Tax Collector Anne Marie Burr regarding the report’s observation that reconciliation of cash receipts to tax deposits was not provided: “There was nothing documented for policies and procedures in the tax office during the time period of 2014-2019; there was no written document.” Again, the justification for having no policies is there were no policies.
Town Council Chairman Jeff Slapikas: “We know what happened. The bank accounts weren’t balanced for a year.” Well, at least that is finally on the record. That sums up the policies and procedures in place for the last 44 years.
This administration cannot be trusted anymore. Is this how residents expect their tax dollars to be protected? The total loss from the theft was around $500,000 of tax dollars, including the theft, legal fees, and the cost of the risk assessment. Tax dollars were wasted due to the incompetence and complacency of the administration. This administration has failed residents. Residents deserve a mayor who is not complacent about protecting tax dollars and Prospect’s future. Democratic mayor challenger Kevin O’Leary has the knowledge, the vision and the energy to dedicate to Prospect. He will protect tax dollars and Prospect’s future. Vote row “A”.
The writer is a member of the Prospect Democratic Town Committee.