‘Simply Inadequate’: Audit Committee Cites Poor Town-Schools Relationship in Suspending Its Work


Saying they don’t want to be associated with New Canaan’s financial statements, members of a committee that town officials appointed last summer in order to help oversee financial reporting for the municipal government and school district said late Tuesday that they’re suspending their work.

The five members of the Audit Committee, including two alternates, said in a letter sent to the first selectman and Town Council that they “have no reason to believe the systems of internal control at both the Town and the Board of Education are adequate nor have recommended improvements been implemented.”

“Communication between the finance department of the Town and the Board of Education has not been adequate. This has resulted in un-reconciled accounts dating back several months. In addition, the Town CFO’s access to the Board of Education books and records, accounting and control systems, is not at an appropriate or adequate level. Without resolution, this would likely prohibit the Town’s CFO from making required representations regarding those controls and records to the Town’s external auditors.”

The committee will cease its activities Nov. 1, the letter said, and could resume if several changes are made. Those include specific changes as well as progress in the relationship between the town and Board of Education and a “clear demonstration from the Town Council and Board of Selectmen and Board of Education that the Audit Committee has appropriate support.”

The Board of Selectmen appointed the group—its members include Ed Kangas, Bill Parrett, Charles Jacobson, George Maranis and Janet Lanaway—in July 2014 following several months of development. The committee was charged with helping municipal departments with financial reporting, such as in an annual independent audit, as well as compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

According to the committee’s letter, “a recommendation for extended audit procedures in the Tax Collector’s Office has not been implemented.”

“These serious deficiencies and others, which remain uncorrected despite frequent requests, renders the Audit Committee uncertain as to its role and puts the Audit Committee in a position of not wanting to be associated with the issuance of the Town’s financial statements,” the committee said. “We caution the Town Council about releasing the financial statements until these problems have been remedied.”

In their letter, the Audit Committee’s members also say they’re “concerned about the breadth and depth of the accounting staffs at the Town and the Board of Education.”

“There is a need for internal audit capabilities, capabilities to address ‘Whistleblower’ complaints, as well as timely implementation of improved controls, and reconciliations. And finally, we have observed that the level of cooperation, trust and transparency between the Board of Education and the Town is simply inadequate. It needs dramatic improvement.”

5 thoughts on “‘Simply Inadequate’: Audit Committee Cites Poor Town-Schools Relationship in Suspending Its Work

  1. How about detailing the thousands upon thousands of staff hours devoted to responding to all these self-named “Whistleblower complaints?” Did the Audit Committee ever look into that before making this statement? Every FOI request requires government officials to spend hours getting the material to respond to. Does the Audit Committee SERIOUSLY think that the town and Board of Ed has not already devoted time — and money — to these complaints?? This so-called “Whistleblower” has not been offering a well-intentioned public service: this has been the mission of one man to target public service officials at every level of government.

    Yes, suspend the Audit Committee and reconstitute it with a group of people who understand the history of New Canaan politics, the nature of civic involvement, and want to work towards an environment that fosters mutual respect. Emphasis on the word “mutual.” Seeing a conspiracy in every corner does not foster good governance.

    Do you ever think that people are going to volunteer or work in town government with the poison that exists here in New Canaan? For the record, I am the Chair of the New Canaan Democratic Town Committee. I see the good intentions, diligence and determination of the people who work on behalf of our town and — most notably — on behalf of our school children. Mistakes happen: let’s correct them. Shame on everyone who seeks to demonize our public servants!

  2. Jane — It is not about understanding the town’s political operations. It is about material weaknesses and inaccurate financial reporting. Kudos to the audit committee for listening and doing their job as professionals. I warned the town about these problems through the last ten years but no one would listen. This is dereliction of the duty to properly spend and protect taxpayer funds and could affect the town’s bond rating and ability to raise funds in the bond market. Who cares how much time a person spends when they do not know what they are doing and lack transparency.

  3. This is absurd. The town needs to immediately hire a paid, outside auditor. Audit the books for real and either expose or shut down these suspicions, innuendos, and accusations once and for all. It is embarrassing.

    • So, next step, a plan to fix the issues. Why appoint an Audit Committee? Were they trying to save the money it would have cost to get a 3rd party to plan and implement the changes they needed to fix the issues? Again, this is why the audit profession exists. This should not be a difficult problem.

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