Officials point to ‘confusion’ as catalyst for check controversy

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — Confusion over the appointment of a deputy treasurer preceded a controversy over the signing of town checks in February, officials said.

In late February, 20 or so checks to pay for town expenses were signed at the direction of Mayor Robert Chatfield by Christine Carasone, who was assistant to the treasurer at the time and filling in for former Treasurer David Young, who died Feb. 17. Young appointed Carasone deputy treasurer in 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.

The Town Charter states only the council chairman or vice chairman can sign checks if the treasurer is not available. The four Democratic members of the Town Council members — Larry Fitzgerald, Theresa Graveline, Patricia Geary and Kevin O’Leary — raised concerns in March and called the signing of checks by anyone other than the council chairman or vice chairman in this situation a “clear violation” of the Town Charter.

The council discussed the matter in executive session on March 25, and Chatfield addressed it in his own statement to the council on March 31.

In the statement, Chatfield said the appointment of Carasone as deputy treasurer was not “conveyed clearly” to the council when the council created the assistant to the treasurer position in February. Chatfield said he was concerned about honoring Young’s medical privacy rights.

The council created the assistant position, which did not include check writing authority, without fully understanding that the authority for check writing had already been conferred to Carasone due to her appointment as deputy treasurer, Chatfield said in the statement.

Chatfield said all the checks in question have been processed. He said Carasone has resigned from both positions to avoid further confusion.

Officials emphasized that she did nothing improper and lauded her for her service to the town.

The town is following the procedure laid out in the Charter for check signing until a new treasurer is appointed.

The council Democrats on April 6 responded with another statement, saying they believe Chatfield acted with “earnest intent” to sustain the daily operations of the town, but they asserted that the proper procedure as written in the Charter was not followed.

In the statement, Democrats pointed to the March 2 council meeting when Chatfield told the council the town does not have a deputy treasurer when asked about the position.

“It is evident that there was confusion and inconsistency from the Mayor to the council regarding the status of the appointment of a deputy treasurer, who had never been sworn in, and then subsequently having that same individual appointed by the council as the assistant to the treasurer, who then was directed to perform check signing duties as is allowed by a deputy treasurer,” the statement read.

Democrats are seeking a full written accounting of all checks in question as well as copies of all the checks to confirm they were successfully negotiated.

“We continue to hold the Mayor accountable for the breakdown of communication, misinformation and lack of clarity regarding the circumstances which led to the controversial signing of Town of Prospect checks,” the statement read.