Auditors grilled over Pownal's town report


POWNAL -- The auditors were confronted by a number of town employees and elected officials at the annual floor meeting over mistakes in the town report.

Auditor Ray Shields asked those who had issues to make them known so they could be addressed.

Darcy Pruden, chief operator of the Waste Water Treatment Facility, said she addressed the errors at the meeting of the Board of Sewer Commissioners (The Select Board) last Thursday and asked him to respond. She handed him her statements in writing and asked him to read them.

"I think it's inappropriate we take the time to read this, it's a full page," Shields said.

A number of people in the audience shouted "Read it," which Shields ultimately did.

Pruden took issue specifically with the part of the auditor's report that reads, "We (the elected Auditors) were unsuccessful in having the Sewer Commissioners (the Selectboard) prepare a timely budget for the Wastewater Operations and Maintenance, as well as having the Commissioners try to curb the overtime at the WWTF, which is running at nearly 10 percent."

Pruden's statements, as read by Shields, explained that the currently policy is to draft that budget in February and March which would mean it was done in a timely manner, just not in time for the town report.

"It's not your decision to change that, it's up to the Board of Selectmen," said Pruden. "You can request a change, but that doesn't mean the waste water budget was not done in a timely manner. That is not a correct statement, according to the policy in place at this time."

Shields continued to read Pruden's statements, which addressed the increase in unbudgeted overtime. "This was due to the fact that the elected auditors, Ray Shields and Betty Baker, told the board that the waste water workers were violating salary rules by donating time. We had no choice but to charge for all our overtime," the statement read.

Her statements went on to say that the water system needs repair at all hours and the facility employees are on-call at all times.

Shields said he sent a letter to the board in 2012 proposing that they stagger the days of waste water employees to cut down on overtime. "No one should be congratulated for working off the clock and not recording their hours properly," Shields said.

"What is your experience in the waste water field, since you are suggesting staffing recommendations? I'd like to know how many waste water treatment facilities you have run?" asked Pruden.

Shields said he had run none, prompting Pruden to say she had been managing them for 20 years. "I have a pretty good idea of what the staffing levels should be. If you want your facility staffed appropriately, please listen to me and not to Ray."

After addressing some other issues, Town Clerk Karen Burrington asked if Shields and Baker would be addressing the other issues with the report.

Select Board Chairman Stephen Kauppi raised a problem he had with the auditors report which stated the auditors were prevented from meeting with the Bonadio Group, the auditing firm hired by the board to audit the town's books annually.

Baker said that did in fact happen, but Kauppi disagreed. Town Treasurer Ellen Strohmaier said it was Bonadio Group's decision not to meet with the auditors.

Baker then addressed errors in the reports of individual employee and elected official salaries. She said Burrington's fees had been listed with her wages and clarified that the delinquent tax collector is only paid based on taxes collected, not wages through the town.

Strohmaier, who is also the delinquent tax collector, said there were other errors of a lesser nature, namely only five board member were paid in the fiscal year being reported, not six. In many places it appears the information in the town's computers was no cross-referenced with expense reports, putting many wage lines off a bit.

Last week, a group of town employees and elected officials wrote a letter to the Banner editor taking issue with the town report. Baker and Shields said in subsequent interviews they would investigate the trouble and announce corrections if needed.

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


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