At the April 13 meeting of the Wellfleet Select Board, after observing that Town Administrator Maria Broadbent’s summary of a financial audit was “very alarming,” the board’s chair, Michael DeVasto, asked Broadbent if the problem was “just bad accounting practices carried on by a few people.” The town administrator said there was “no way of knowing right now.” Broadbent did not try to explain the auditors’ report.
Two weeks later, we still don’t know much more. The software issues and accounting complexities we’ve heard a little about can surely be fixed, however tedious that work may be. Meanwhile, the town hall exodus continues, revealing there’s something less technical we need to address.
The recently hired town accountant, Heather Michaud, who received good reviews for her work, abruptly resigned last Friday. That same afternoon, Broadbent herself agreed to depart, effective this Friday. The top staff people who worked for Broadbent when she took the reins in August 2020, Assistant Town Administrator Michael Trovato and Executive Assistant Courtney Butler, were both gone after just a few months. And for the first time in memory, the town faces an election in which there is just one candidate on the ballot for two open seats on the select board.
“Be assured,” Chair DeVasto wrote in an official statement, that the important business of the town will be accomplished. He is probably right. Wellfleet is rich in educated, wise, and hard-working people who will surely step up to produce a proper town budget for the next fiscal year and shepherd the voters through an annual town meeting that will be civil and well run. Moderator Dan Silverman will see to that, as he always does.
But DeVasto offered no sense of what’s been learned in this debacle or what the next steps should be. Maybe it’s too early for analysis. But bland assurances fall flat at a moment like this. I, for one, would like to hear a loud cry for better leadership.
Will anyone step up to take the select board seat being vacated by Justina Carlson — someone who can provide the steady hand on the municipal tiller that has been so clearly lacking for several years? No? Perhaps a strict limit of 90 minutes for all select board meetings would shake loose a candidate or two. (It would certainly contribute to more democratic participation in town governance.) There is still time, Wellfleeters, to announce your write-in campaign for the June 30 town election.
One thing, at least, should now be clear. As Wellfleet gets ready for another town administrator search, it won’t be calling on Community Paradigm Associates, the Plymouth headhunters who brought us both the disastrous Robin Craver, who lasted six months in Provincetown, and the unfortunate Maria Broadbent.