WELLFLEET — Nick Robertson starts work as the new town accountant this Monday, April 4.
For the last five years he has been Provincetown’s assistant town accountant. He sees the job in Wellfleet as “the next logical step” in his career.
He knows he’s joining a department that has been plagued with problems. “I think it will be fun to take on that challenge,” he said. And being one member of a new team — the town’s new treasurer, Cameron Reiss Scott, started on March 7, and Richard Waldo will start soon as town administrator — is part of the draw, Robertson said.
He said his favorite part of the Provincetown job he’s leaving behind is account balancing. That will continue in Wellfleet. “I like tracking down a case line by line,” he said.
One of the accountant’s main tasks comes at the end of every fiscal year on June 30. When all the accounts are balanced, the accountant submits a form to the state Dept. of Revenue (DOR), and “that whole process leads to the certification of free cash.”
Free cash, that is, unspent, unrestricted funds from the previous fiscal year, cannot be used until it is certified by the DOR. The last date for which Wellfleet’s free cash has been certified was June 30, 2019, according to DOR spokeswoman Naysa Woomer.
Robertson will be the first person to fill the accountant position as a regular rather than interim employee since Heather Michaud left last April, in the same week that former Town Administrator Maria Broadbent resigned. Michaud blew the whistle about alarming discrepancies in the town’s books and asked that the fiscal 2020 audit include a management letter detailing specific accounting irregularities.
The town’s longtime auditors at Powers & Sullivan then identified material weaknesses in cash management and internal controls and a $765,000 “unknown variance” in the books (there was no balance sheet or general ledger) that remains unresolved.
Before Michaud, Gene Ferrari served as the town accountant for a year before being dismissed by Broadbent on the last day of his one-year contract. Broadbent would not provide a reason for his dismissal.
In a letter to the editor in this issue of the Independent, former Wellfleet Town Treasurer Miriam Spencer refers to Ferrari as having been “underprepared and overwhelmed.”
Currently, the town accounting role is being filled by Mary McIsaac, who was brought in by interim Town Administrator Charles Sumner to help untangle the accounting records from fiscal 2020 and 2021. That undertaking has moved more slowly than expected. Another interim accountant, Lisa Souve, has also been recruited by Sumner.
As new staff members arrive, McIsaac, Souve, and Sumner will stay on to finish the accounting project, and to help the new team transition, Sumner said.
While the accountant job is now filled in Wellfleet’s finance department, Provincetown will be seeking a new numbers person. “There’s no replacement for Nick yet,” said Town Manager Alex Morse. “We will post for that position soon.”
Find the Last Penny
Thanks to his experience in Provincetown, Robertson is versed in many of the tasks he’ll take on in his new job. He has not worked with the VADAR accounting software Wellfleet uses, but he is very familiar with MUNIS, the system Provincetown uses.
Robertson, who has a communications degree from Loyola Marymount University, didn’t initially plan to be an accountant. He worked as an office manager in San Francisco and Los Angeles, then moved to Provincetown in 1999, where he and his wife, Siân, opened two retail stores — first, Traders Village and later id, which they closed in 2014.
He was initially hired as the accounts payable clerk in Provincetown in 2014, where he did straightforward data entry. But soon he took on more responsibilities, attended educational programs, and became assistant town accountant.
“It wasn’t an intentional path, but it worked out to be something I love and what I plan to do for the rest of my career,” he said.
Robertson lives in Truro with Siân, an artist and the Independent’s office assistant, and their two dogs and a cat.
Having lived on the Outer Cape for 23 years, “I understand what it means to be a taxpayer in a small community,” he said.
Thorough and precise, Robertson won’t let anything go. “That’s just my personality,” he said. “I will find that last penny.”