‘There Was No Fraud’
To the editor:
Ed Miller in his May 19 Letter From the Editor says Wellfleet’s books don’t add up. He thinks the town ought to pay for a “forensic audit” by an “independent outside agency with full investigative authority.” Such wrong-headed advice requires a rebuttal.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. There was no fraud or unlawful activity. Monies transferred out of the town’s checking accounts have been properly accounted for.
Almost all of Wellfleet’s financial woes were caused by thousands of errors and omissions on the town’s ledgers. Reconciliation has been severely hampered by significant staff turnover plus the installation of new accounting software.
Charlie Sumner, Wellfleet’s interim administrator, brought in Mary McIsaac and Lisa Souve as outside financial consultants to help unravel the accounts. Both also stepped up to assume responsibility as interim town accountant and interim town treasurer. The turnover of financial personnel impacted timelines.
Reconciliation involves finding and tracking source documents, transaction by transaction. Because fiscal 2020 budgets were not reported correctly, many pieces of the puzzle were missing. It was impossible to close the books.
Wellfleet’s problems were also triggered by a change in accounting software. There are no issues with the software. The problem was a complete failure in mapping the old system’s chart of accounts to the new system. Garbage in, garbage out.
Sumner and his two financial consultants came out of retirement to help Wellfleet navigate away from treacherous waters back toward safe harbor. It’s worth noting that, throughout this whole financial crisis, under Charlie’s leadership Wellfleet experienced no turnover among department heads. The town has continued to deliver quality services.
The taxpayers at Wellfleet’s upcoming town meeting need to support Article 1 on the warrant, the level-funded operational budget that will ensure uninterrupted municipal services.
The writer is a member of the Wellfleet Finance Committee.
Going Above and Beyond
To the editor:
Re “Books That Don’t Add Up”:
For a year, Wellfleet has employed two extremely able accountants, Lisa Souve and Mary McIsaac. There is nothing about their work that could be characterized as anything other than “independent.”
Interim Town Administrator Charles Sumner has highlighted far more than just “staff turnover and technology issues.” The dire condition of town finances is primarily the result of two or more decades of failure to follow proper accounting, procurement, and reporting procedures, as well as the abject failure of recent town administrators (and the select boards to whom they answered) to address these ongoing deficiencies.
Sumner, Souve, and McIsaac had mountains to move, and the more they dug, the more they discovered — making it difficult or impossible to reliably estimate how long the process would take.
In December, about six months into the process, Ms. McIsaac had to assume the duties of town treasurer. Our assistant town accountant was absent for months on authorized leave; Ms. Souve had to assume that role.
It has taken much longer than we would have liked to get answers about what happened to our town’s finances. A situation years in the making can reasonably be expected to take longer than anticipated to resolve.
The hiring of new Town Treasurer Cameron Scott, Town Accountant Nick Robertson, and the new permanent town administrator, Rich Waldo, points to a positive, responsible direction ahead.
Sumner, Souve, and McIsaac have truly gone above and beyond in their efforts. They are not residents and, other than their temporary employment, have no “dog in the fight.” They have nothing to gain by doing anything less than exposing every aspect of our town’s dysfunction to the light of day. Let’s give them the credit and thanks they are clearly due.
John A. Wolf
The writer is clerk of the Wellfleet Select Board.
No Victory Laps
To the editor:
A year ago, my wife and I had dinner with several Wellfleet friends including a member of the Wellfleet Select Board. Having just read in the Independent about the substantial “unknown variance” in the town’s accounts, I asked the board member what steps were being taken to address the issue. The reply struck me as inadequate.
I asked what was in the management letter from the town’s auditor. In this document, separate from the audit itself, the auditor advises the client of any weaknesses that have been found and recommends changes to improve financial controls. I was told that the board member had no recollection of receiving such a document.
I was then asked what I would do if no management letters existed covering the time periods during which town accounts were out of balance. My answer was short. I would have recommended that the auditor’s contract be terminated immediately and that its malpractice carrier be notified that the town may have a substantial claim against its insured.
I would have further recommended that the town notify the district attorney of a possible embezzlement of town funds and that the town’s fidelity bond insurance carrier be similarly notified.
I was so concerned by what I heard at that dinner that I called and told the editor of the Independent what I knew. But the newspaper did not treat this matter with the urgency it required. Sadly, there is no one in Wellfleet who can take a victory lap on this one, including the Independent.
We don’t know whether town officials took any steps similar to the ones I would have urged, but if they didn’t, they should have. One must remember that sometimes very good people do very bad things.
The writer is a retired lawyer.
The Trail to Nowhere
To the editor:
After putting up last year with the construction and closures at the South Wellfleet end of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, I was excited about riding on the new extension this summer. This morning, as I exited the Rail Trail at the Wellfleet Hollow State Campground on Old Kings Highway, I was stopped by an employee and told that only registered users of the campground could exit the Rail Trail and ride through it.
I said, “Then the extension of the Rail Trail makes no sense. It’s a trail to nowhere.”
His response was, “Get the town of Wellfleet to approve the original plan that takes the Rail Trail further north to Route 6. We can’t let riders get off here. It would overload our bathrooms.”
While I supported the original plan, the town has made a decision, and I will honor it. The state should also accept the town’s ruling.
I think we can all agree that keeping bicycles off Route 6 benefits everyone. It is a short, easy ride from the end of the Rail Trail to Old Kings Highway, which allows cyclists to bypass a portion of Route 6.
It is hard to imagine that the additional cyclists will overload the campground toilets and facilities. The state Dept. of Conservation and Recreation operates both the Rail Trail and Wellfleet Hollow Campground. The nonsensical decision to ban cyclists from the campground has to be solely DCR’s. I assume the ability to reverse it is theirs. They do not have to let bicyclists use the campground parking lot — they just have to let through bikers use the campground roads.
If DCR maintains its current policy, we have a Rail Trail extension to nowhere, and we wasted a lot of money.
Wellfleet and Wellesley
It’s Dangerous, Too
To the editor:
Rail Trail users, beware!
The new extension of the Cape Cod Rail Trail at Lecount Hollow Road in Wellfleet is dangerous and poorly designed.
Number one: it is too narrow.
Number two: there is no shoulder on either side.
Number three: big wooden guard rails are intimidating and leave no room for error.
Number four: asphalt lips on the side are problematic.
Number five: the trail goes nowhere.
These deficiencies pose serious safety concerns to residents and visitors to our beautiful Cape Cod.