Mismanagement of funds preceded clerk’s resignation

An auditor’s report showed former Beacon Falls Town Clerk Kurt Novak, left, pictured above in 2007, mishandled funds prior to his resignation. –CONTRIBUTED


BEACON FALLS — According to a town audit report, Kurt Novak, who resigned from the position of town clerk for personal reasons on March 16, had mishandled funds.

The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance held a special meeting on March 27 to receive the audit report.

“Recent personal and profound events in my life have made it impossible for me to give the town clerk’s office the attention it requires and deserves,” Novak wrote in his resignation letter. “The recent unexpected death of my younger sister and the deterioration of my elderly parent’s health have added to my already full plate. At this time, I need to give my family and personal matters my undivided attention.”

However, according to the Board of Selectmen and certified public accountant Michael Zemaitis, who prepared the audit report, there were more reasons that led to Novak’s resignation

Zemaitis said there were certain aspects of the town clerk’s budget that raised red flags.

“I had concerns about the reconciling of the town clerk’s departmental fee collections and how much was dispersed,” Zemaitis said.

Zemaitis said he noticed that there were withdrawals from accounts that weren’t being reconciled he immediately brought it to the attention of First Selectman Gerard Smith.

“Ultimately, all accounts that were in question have now been accounted for,” Zemaitis said.

Zemaitis reassured the boards that this would not cause any problems for the town.

“Nothing about this matter leads me to believe that the town’s financial standings have been affected in any consequential way,” Zemaitis said.

Smith explained that the town clerk’s books had not been reconciled in a long time. When the fund discrepancies were discovered, Smith explained that the practice of how the town clerk writes checks changed to become more like every other department in the town.

Historically, the town clerk’s departmental fee collections fell under a personal account, with the town clerk making deposits and signing checks, town officials said. The account has been changed to a town account, and now the town treasurer makes deposits with the checks signed by the selectmen.

This means that now the town treasurer needs to write the check and two out of three selectmen need to sign off on it.

Smith said he was informed of the discrepancies in January, and that changes were immediately made. When he heard about what was happening with the funds, Smith said he tried to find the correct direction to take in the matter.

“I sought advice as to what I should do. I notified the proper authorities. They did their investigation and we were told that the account was made whole. We’re not owed any money,” Smith said.

Smith explained that Connecticut State Attorney Kevin Lawlor contacted him to inform him that Novak would be stepping down.

Smith said he asked Lawlor what he, as the first selectman, was supposed to do.

“He said that the recommendation was to have him resign and he resigned,” Smith said.

If the town had decided to pursue a course of action against Novak, it was told that a resignation is the most they could have expected in this case, Smith said. He said there were no missing funds, and this was a question of procedure.

Smith explained that he wasn’t the only one that was in on the decision making process.

“When it was made public, everybody knew. The Board of Selectmen knew and acted together as the Board of Selectmen,” Smith explained.

The boards accepted the audit report.