Council Democrats call for answers on checks issue

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — Democrats on the Town Council are seeking a full accounting of checks that were issued in February in a manner they called “a clear violation” of the Town Charter.

In late February, 20 or so checks to pay for town expenses were signed by Kristine Carasone, assistant to the treasurer, who was filling in for former Treasurer David Young, who died Feb. 17. Mayor Robert Chatfield has said he spoke with the town’s legal counsel and was advised it was OK for her to sign the checks.

The Town Charter, though, states only the council chairman or vice chairman can sign checks if the treasurer is not available.

The four Democratic council members — Larry Fitzgerald, Theresa Graveline, Patricia Geary and Kevin O’Leary — said in a statement read at the March 16 council meeting that the signing of checks by anyone other than the council chairman or vice chairman in this situation “is a clear violation of our town charter.”

They are seeking details on the checks written, including the total amount, what they were for and whether they were successfully cashed, as well as confirmation that the assistant to the treasurer has been removed as a signatory on town bank accounts.

In the statement, the Democrats said they “believe the actions of the mayor and the assistant to the treasurer were undertaken to ensure that the business operations of the town would continue,” but that it violated the charter.

“This is a series and unacceptable overextension of this administration’s powers, and we hold the mayor accountable,” the statement reads.

Young appointed Carasone deputy treasurer in late January but she was never officially sworn in, according to officials. State statute allows treasurers to appoint a deputy treasurer to perform the duties of a treasurer, if the treasurer is unable.

At the council’s Jan. 19 meeting, Chatfield asked for a budget transfer to fund the deputy treasurer position, but council members sought more clarity on the position.

At its Feb. 2 meeting, the council approved, in a split vote along party lines, a $2,100 transfer to fund the new assistant to the treasurer position.

A new treasurer, which is an elected position, has not been appointed yet. Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas is temporarily serving as treasurer.

Chatfield told the council the town attorney will address the issue with the council. The council scheduled a special meeting for March 25 at 6 p.m. to discuss the matter.

The agenda for the meeting lists an executive session to discuss personnel matters.

In an interview following last week’s council meeting, Chatfield said he was working to get the information on the checks together. He did not go into further detail, saying it will be addressed at the March 25 meeting.

The Town Charter states any officer or employee who knowingly violates the provisions governing payments is liable to the town for the full amount paid or received, and it’s also cause for removal.

In their statement, the Democrats said they are not suggesting any recourse be taken at this time, but added it must never happen again and any future violations will be expected to be addressed as prescribed by the charter.