BELLOWS FALLS – The Rockingham Select Board of Trustees and Bellows Falls Village Trustees took their first steps on Tuesday night to address the financial mess left by former CFO Shannon Burbela.
At the suggestion of City Manager Scott Pickup, the two councils, meeting jointly on Tuesday evening, established a new finance committee to work with Pickup on financial matters, as well as to find a new finance director.
Pickup said the town and town needed to “restore basic credibility.”
The town and village turned to the New England Management Resource Center to help address significant issues discovered in finances, which range from balancing its bank accounts to misclassified and misclassified income and expenses. , lack of correct tax status and overloaded credit card. fresh.
In addition to the work of the NEMRC, an audit of the village finances for the year ending last June also revealed widespread problems dating back to 2019.
Although Burbela’s name was not mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting, Pickup simply called it “the transition process.” He said earlier in the week that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. “Transparency here is the goal,” he said.
“Current practices,” he said, “need to be improved. Pickup has been a manager since last October and Burbela has been on medical leave for much of 2021.
He said that “a fairly intense amount of work” needs to be done to avoid repeating mistakes, although he made no reference to anything specific.
He said some of the financial matters have been the subject of complaints to him from both councils since his arrival. Boards have repeatedly asked Burbela for additional financial information and reports, and she often replied that she was so overworked that she would have to make up for it soon.
He said the challenge is to “restore” the accuracy of the city and village financial books. “Transparency here is the goal,” he said.
Although Burbela is no longer involved in the finances of the municipalities, she still acts as a consultant on several outstanding issues, including the financial books and a lawsuit against various members of the police department which has been brought against the village while she was director of human resources. .
Pickup told boards of directors it was also using the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank to ensure there was “transparency” in resolving the issues. “I asked the bond bank to come and work with us,” he said.
The director suggested that the new finance committee work closely with him and suggested one person from each board. The councils debated whether two people from each council were justified or necessary, and decided on the smaller committee.
The village of Bellows Falls in particular owes the bond bank millions of dollars for recent work on its municipal water and sewer systems.
Boards of directors have not made any public statements about Burbela’s departure on June 14, which Pickup said earlier in the week as reciprocal. Burbela, who served as director of finance for around 2.5 years, joined the group weeks after a professional audit of the village’s finances for the year 2019-2020 revealed many glaring shortcomings and a lack of accounting practices. standard.
Peter Golec, Chairman of the Rockingham Board of Directors, has volunteered to represent the Board of Directors on the new finance committee. Director James “Jiggs” McAuliffe has also volunteered to be the director’s representative.
Village president Deborah Wright noted that McAuliffe was on the committee in 2018 that interviewed Burbela for the job. McAuliffe noted that Cynthia Stoddard, who is the NEMRC employee who now works at the municipal office to straighten out finances, was on the same committee.