KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

POWNAL -- The Select Board voted Thursday to suspend its monthly meetings with the Board of Auditors after a slew of adversarial discussions which involved the auditors going to State Police with what they said was evidence of "misuse of public funds" by town officials.

Police said they have found no evidence of criminal activity in the town’s books.

Since last year, auditors Ray Shields and Betty Baker have been bringing questions and concerns to the board. The board has criticized them for overstepping their bounds as auditors, while they have been critical of the board for not taking action on what they say are payroll errors that occurred between 2009 and 2012. The auditors claim that $43,000 in errors can be seen, but so far have not turned their information over to the board. Shields told the board in August that he had turned the information over to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, who referred it to the State Police.

Board member Dale Palmer said given that the meetings with the auditors have amounted to little but wasted time, that they be discontinued and that the board once more formally request the auditors share their information.

The board voted to suspend the meetings for 60 days, barring some emergency.

The monthly meetings started over the summer as an attempt to develop a better working relationship between the two groups, which was already contentious, as the board had produced a ballot article asking voters to abolish the town auditor position.

Board Chairman Stephen Kauppi said he did not wish for the meetings to be held off for too long, as the auditors are responsible for producing the town report for Town Meeting Day in March.

Kauppi, Palmer, and board member Michael George voted in favor of halting the meetings. Board member Rich Ryder abstained, while board member Ronald Bisson was not present. The auditors were also not in attendance. Shields did not return a call made to his home Friday.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.