A while ago I swore that I would put Wellfleet’s financial troubles out of my mind and not write another letter to the Independent about this mess like the one I wrote last May. But the story in last week’s paper about the state’s financial management review caused me to break my promise to myself and pen this note to the community I lived in for over 30 years.
As far as I know, the Wellfleet Select Board has still not directed counsel to file a malpractice claim against Powers & Sullivan, the town’s auditor during the time that this mess was created. I suggest that their malpractice insurance carrier might seriously consider picking up some of the costs the town has incurred since their client’s exposure appears to be clear from what has been disclosed. If the board has not asserted such a claim to date, it should do so immediately, for there may be a statute of limitations deadline approaching.
The town’s accounts have been a complete shambles since 2019, if not longer. It is now almost two years since Wellfleet engaged the services of a veteran administrator, Charles Sumner, and two retired municipal accountants, Mary McIsaac and Lisa Souve, to straighten out the town’s chaotic records. But the books still have not been brought into balance, and as of September 2022 at least $100,000 of the $765,000 “unknown variance” revealed by the 2020 audit remained unaccounted for, according to a report from McIsaac and Souve. Current Town Administrator Richard Waldo said then that the town “has decided simply to write off that amount,” the Independent reported.
The same persons who were involved in creating this mess had the gall to assure us that, despite the fact that large sums of money were still unaccounted for, they knew of nothing to suggest the possibility of theft. Their failure to balance the town’s accounts for what is now a third year strongly suggests that this assurance is nonsense. I hope this unsupportable assertion has not stopped the select board from alerting the fidelity bonding company if any of the persons involved was bonded.
The bottom line is that the board appears to have been singularly passive for the last three years on this question. It is unacceptable for them not to have been publicly jumping up and down calling out all who were involved. They should have been seen publicly applying all necessary resources to rectify this situation. New personnel and a new auditing firm should have been retained with the power to do what had to be done and to give no quarter to any person found to have a part in the creation of the problem.
The town deserved that at least.
In short, the select board should have shown the spine necessary to do the job they were entrusted to do. To continue to tolerate this fiasco for three years without screaming out loud for progress is inexcusable.
I believe that the members of the board are in a fiduciary relationship with the town. A fiduciary has no friends when it comes to executing his or her duty. That strict obligation comes with the job. They must execute that duty without regard to any consequence to another or to themselves, or else they must resign. There are no special exceptions allowed.
Buddy Perkel is a retired lawyer who lives in Provincetown.