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Selectman O'Regan Comments on Stoughton Public Schools "Payment and Accounting Issues"

Selectmen Bob O'Regan weighs in on the recent request to audit the Stoughton Public School's payroll operation.

Editor's Note: The following is a statement from Selectmen Bob O'Regan in response to the requested audit of the school's payroll operation.

Town Accountant Bill Rowe requested to perform an audit of the school's payroll operation after members of the Board of Selectmen expressed concerns over lack of documentation to back up the numbers on the December 12/13 payroll warrant item on the Selectmen's agenda.

The schools, according to a previously issued statement, will comply with the audit request.

The original article about the planned audit is here:

The statement from School Committee Chair Deborah Sovinee and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi is here:

Stoughton School Department will Comply with Town Accountant's Audit Request

Selectman O'Regan's statement is below:

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STATEMENT FROM SELECTMAN BOB O'REGAN

I would like to put into perspective the problems that continue to plague relations between the municipal departments and the School Department that seem to be underscored by the pending questions surrounding the School Department’s payroll. My refusal to sign the authorization for the Town Treasurer to issue checks for part of the School Department’s payroll triggered the Town Accountant’s audit of those records this week. The Town Accountant was unable to assure me that he had the backup necessary to support the disbursement of taxpayer money that the Selectmen were being requested to authorize. The statement by Superintendent Rizzi and School Committee Chair Sovinee that the School Department will cooperate with the audit is a welcome shift from earlier comments that the Town Accountant would be met at the door by the School Department’s attorneys.

Before taking the position that I would not sign the warrant for this part of the School Department’s payroll, I found that there was a significant disparity in the histories of what documentation had been provided to Town Hall to support disbursement requests. Because the Town Accountant is the officer responsible for preparing the warrant for the Selectmen, my inquiry stopped when the Town Accountant advised that he did not have documentation from the School Department to support all of the payroll checks that were within that particular request. To be more specific, the Town Accountant informed me that the payroll warrant included requests for some individuals who are under contract with the School Department, however, he had only been provided with the payment amounts but not the contracts themselves (by which to support and verify the payments). In other instances, he had copies of certain pages of contracts, but not the entire documents. State law requires that the Town Accountant have the contracts to support payments from your tax dollars. He assured me that requests for the missing contracts had been made and not honored. The School Department’s public statements track the information I received from them. I was, and remained, stymied on why there is such a gap in describing what contracts have been received by the Town Accountant and why, even if all of the contracts had been provided before, there would be any question about doing so again simply because the Town Accountant stated he did not have them. Although there was sincere interest in having me understand when requests for the contracts were made or not, this would do nothing to get payroll checks out to the employees who deserve to be paid. To me, regardless of which department was correct on what was asked for, what was given or when, the backup for me to authorize tax money to be paid out was still not in the hands of the person whom the Selectmen rely on for that purpose and state law requires to have it.

This episode is an example of the “hangover” from the intoxicating but paralyzing conflict we have seen play out between the School Department and Town Hall. It will take some time for the medicine of the routine conduct of the public’s business to cure that hangover. By way of example from this episode, delivering contracts to the Town Accountant promptly upon execution should happen as a matter of standard operating procedure. In my campaign earlier this year, I was not shy in pointing out that prior Boards of Selectmen had made mistakes that fostered bad relations with the School Department, and referred to the changes we need to make as a “new business as usual”. Looking ahead from this experience, I am hopeful that through this budget process, the School Department and the Board of Selectmen work together, as the public rightly expects, as our forecasted revenues will not support significant budget increases desired by the municipal and School Departments, and to present a coherent set of proposed capital expenditures to Town Meeting without use of petitioned warrant articles that so frustrated Town Meeting last year.

Bob O’Regan
Selectman

Janet Sroczynski December 22, 2012 at 12:34 AM
It has been brought to my attention that over 30 families within the current Easton Public School system have been either removed from their school in Easton, or are being threatened by the Easton Public Schools, to be removed. Very threatening and demanding letters have been sent out by the current Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Green, with threatening "Tuition" payments being demanded of families, residents and taxpayers of the town of Easton, Massachusetts. With this poor economy, families being forced to relocate and incur storage unit fees, and with the Easton Middle School announcing on their "PA-announcement system" that if they happen to hear of families moving, or if they over-hear students talking about it in the hallways of the Easton Public Schools, that they should contact the school principal immediately. That announcement was made at the start of this current school system by the Easton Middle School Principal. If you hear of other Easton residents and taxpayers who are being threatened by the current town of Easton School Department, please contact me or the Massachusetts Attorney General's, or both.
Janet Sroczynski December 23, 2012 at 05:08 PM
To Easton Residents and Taxpayers; Members of The Easton School Committee; let's review the following article: "School Committee to Get a Firm Grip on Legal Costs" an article posted on the web by Andria Farrell of Gatehouse News Service on June 13, 2008 regarding the Boston, Massachusetts Lawfirm of Stoneman, Chandler & Miller LLP, 99 High Street, Boston, MA 02110 and telephone 1.617.542.6789 and email/website at: http://www.scmllp.com. Regarding: Attorney Rebecca L. Bryant and Duxbury, Massachusetts School Committee: Link found at: http://www.wickedlocal.com/duxbury/news/x379967207/School-committee-wants-to-get-a-firm-grip-on-legal-costs#axzz2F+2y7dmT 2008 Fees Charged by Rebecca L. Bryant at the lawfirm of Stoneman, Chandler & Miller LLP as stated in the article are: $200 per hour; $250 per hour for tiered legal fee system for non-basic items. How do you feel about current members of the Easton School Department, Principals, the Superintendent of Schools in Easton, the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Easton, Teachers and other members of the town of Easton, including the Easton Police Department, using Easton Resident and Taxpayer money to: 1) Hire the Easton Police Department to photograph Easton Resident and Taxpayers land/property/mailboxes? Do you find the policy to be Fraud? A waste of Taxpayer and Resident money? Do you find the policy to be Racketeering? How about Demanding Tuition Payments, do you find that to be Extortion?

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