In the Board of Selectmen's meeting of Aug. 24, Chairman Clark announced he would no longer sign water department warrants for payment due to a lack of response the Water Department to the Town's "Forensic Audit" of the water department's meter scrapping program.
That is a clear example of dereliction of duty of his office by endangering the safety and standing of the water department, as is the spending of some $7,500 on this report where the annual amounts of this program never totaled more than $450 a year. Percentage wise, the scrapped value was 0.05 percent of the water department budget whereas the $7,500 is 17 percent of the legal line item.
A little history first. In 2012 the federal "No Lead" law was implemented which meant that any defined leaded inventory was illegal with a compliance enforcement start date of January 2014. This gave the Townsend Water Department two years to get into compliance. The issue for almost all small-to-medium-sized water utilities was that by directly scrapping the inventory, the revenues would go to the town's general fund and not the Water Enterprise Fund.
Water utilities fight to maintain budgets and any loss of money isn't replaceable. The metering company contracted a company to scrap materials and credit the water department for new material. Townsend received 20 percent discount on these new unleaded materials.
Was this an audit? Page two of the auditor's report states "These agreed upon procedures do not constitute an audit or a review of financial statements or any part thereof, the objective of which is the expression of opinion or limited assurance...".
There are also factual and professional issues with this report on the part of the auditor.
1. There is a complete lack of water industry experience which shows itself in the blatant misrepresentation of the meter components. The report incorrectly identified meter registers as more expensive transmitters. It referred to transmitters as encoders, which is misleading and inaccurate.
2. The report stated there was NO documentation available on scrap value or scrapped meters available. This is 100 percent untrue, the meter company provided all the requested material.
3. Why did the auditor only speak with service clerk and not an officer of the Meter Company or the Inspector General's office, or did the auditor not know of the approval? I would call that a lapse in professional behavior not in standing with accepted behaviors of a municipal certified public accountant. The auditor never revealed a past relationship with the Townsend town administrator.
The selectmen and town administrator are presenting an opinion as a forensic audit. The chairman is basing his irresponsible behavior on this opinion. There is no mention of the specifics of this scrapping program statewide or its approval nor the federal law requiring this change out. So again, through their actions the Board of Selectmen and the town administrator have proven their threat to the safety and sustainability of the Townsend Water Department and its water takers through the misuse and control of information taken out of context.