HARVARD — Auditor George McKenna spotlighted two checks drawn from the special-education (SPED) account during the annual audit.
“The two checks were considered questionable,” McKenna said.
The audit, which takes a close look at transactions in the town’s operating budget and reports on the details, targets the previous fiscal year — in this case, FY06.
McKenna outlined the course of the audit during the June 19 Board of Selectmen meeting. He presented a detailed report to the board and highlighted significant areas.
McKenna, who has performed these audits for the town for several years, explained how and why the “questionable” checks were singled out. The audit, as a requirement of the process, he said, includes an accounting of SPED expenditures and scrutiny of “individually significant transactions” with a focus on the amount of the expenditure and the payee. In this instance, two checks stood out. The checks were dated in October and November 2006, respectively. The amounts are $15,000 each, and the payee is former School Committee Chairman Paul Wormser.
After spotting the two checks, the auditing team, which also includes Finance Director Lorraine Leonard, took the next step and looked into the matter.
“Our inquiry with the special-education director indicated the process didn’t occur normally in this case,” said McKenna.
SPED Director Charles Horn told auditors the expenditures weren’t channeled through his office or examined by the SPED team, as would have been normal procedure. That procedure, he said, is outlined elsewhere in the report.
“What surprised us is that it (the transaction) didn’t come through (Horn) or the SPED team,” said McKenna.
Based on the probe, the auditing team concluded the buck stopped at the top administrative level.
“It was all done through the superintendent at the time,” he said, and that’s why it’s labeled questionable.
“We recommend that the SPED Task Force go over the approval process,” he said.
The task force is a group formed by the selectmen with Town Meeting approval. Its job is to examine the workings of the SPED Department and recommend ways to make it more efficient, if possible, with an eye toward cutting costs down to a manageable size.
Selectman William Marinelli, however, said the task force shouldn’t be the investigator in this matter.
“Investigating an irregular transaction” isn’t an appropriate charge for the SPED task force, he said.
Selectman Robert Eubank, who serves on the task force, said the auditor’s suggestion isn’t for the group to look into alleged “wrongdoing,” but rather the process and procedure “to see if things are followed as they should be.”
Keith Cheveralls, who serves on the task force, said the selectman’s call was spot-on.
“You handled (these allegations) extraordinarily well,” he said, but the issue is still “the elephant in town.” Knowing there might be legal, even criminal investigations underway, he urged the board to stay on top of things and keep the public informed.
It’s not clear from the discussion whether the selectmen intend to take steps on their own in this matter. The case is reportedly being investigated, possibly as a criminal case, by other levels, including the district attorney and police Chief Edward Denmark.