Selectmen To Vote on Hiring ‘Interim CFO’; Status of Finance Director Uncertain

The Board of Selectmen is scheduled on Tuesday to vote on a measure that would see a veteran of municipal government finances hired as interim CFO for the town, according to a public meeting agenda. Sandra Dennies—formerly CFO in Wilton and director of administration in Stamford—would take on the role for a two-month period “subject to a review of candidates for a permanent assignment,” according to the selectmen’s agenda for a 9 a.m. meeting to be held at Town Hall. The prospect of a new municipal finance director comes two months before current CFO Dawn Norton was expected to retire, in July. It also follows a decision from the town’s highest elected official to appoint a new, in-house “overseer” of the finance department—a change that members of the Audit Committee said allowed them to support the town’s annual financial report for the year ending June 30, 2016. It isn’t clear whether the imminent vote on an interim CFO means Norton will retire sooner.

Town: New Canaan’s Finance Director To Retire This Summer

New Canaan’s CFO is planning to retire this summer, the town’s highest elected official said Monday when asked about the status of the municipal Department of Finance. Dawn Norton following a recent meeting of the New Canaan Audit Committee approached First Selectman Rob Mallozzi with a plan to step down, likely in July, he said. “I will start looking for an interim CFO in the next couple of weeks and we will see how that goes, but in the hopes of having a full-time CFO in here come late June or July,” Mallozzi told The news came from Mallozzi following New Canaanite’s inquiry into the status of Administrative Officer Tom Stadler as overseer of the finance department—a recent change initiated by the first selectman that members of the Audit Committee said allowed them to support the town’s annual financial report for the year ending June 30, 2016. Norton has held the position of finance director for about five years, taking over for Gary Conrad.

As ‘Material Weaknesses’ Persist, First Selectman Puts Tom Stadler in Charge of Town’s Finance Department; Status of CFO Unclear

A trusted and experienced municipal employee already in place will take on new responsibilities to help address lingering and recently disclosed problems with the town’s financial controls, officials said Tuesday morning. Starting immediately, Administrative Officer Tom Stadler will oversee the New Canaan Finance Department as per a decision from the first selectman, Audit Committee Chairman Bill Parrett said during a meeting held at Town Hall. According to a letter from Parrett that he cited during the meeting, Audit Committee members “understand from Rob Mallozzi that he is considering changes to the Finance Department and that effective immediately, the town’s administrative officer and CPA, Tom Stadler, will be given the responsibility of overseeing the Finance Department.”

The statement continued: “Tom has the experience and holds a CPA. He is the ideal source to review the efficiency and effectiveness of [the] town’s finance organization and to make appropriate changes, improvements and modifications to rectify the immediate deficiencies and provide for a long-term solution.”

It isn’t clear what role current Finance Director Dawn Norton would play, if any, in a reconstituted finance department. Reached by, Mallozzi declined to comment on specifics, citing matters of personnel.

‘A Much Better Understanding of the Yin and Yang’: Selectmen Support Audit Committee Appointments

Saying that his relationship with the Audit Committee has improved significantly in the past few months, New Canaan’s highest elected official and the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday supported the reappointment of one committee member and the appointment of one new member. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi called prospective new Audit Committee member John Lanaway’s resume “unbelievable” and noted that his predecessor in the group, Janet Lanaway, “was there for some of the turmoil.”

“I have noticed in my dealings with the Audit Committee in the last three or four months, on my level, a much better understanding of the yin and yang of at least my role and [Town Administrator] Tom [Stadler]’s role and [Finance Director] Dawn [Norton]’s role and others in municipal government, and I have found that it has been a much different attitude—on my part, quite frankly, because I was hesitant about the Audit Committee,” Mallozzi said during a Board of Selectmen meeting, held at Town Hall. “So I can say I am feeling that there has been a change in the attitudes and I think a lot of it had to come from the top, and I take some responsibility for that, as well, and most recently in their help in trying to lay out what we are looking for in an internal auditor or controller, they have been much more user-friendly. I am happy to report that.”

The comments come a few weeks after the Audit Committee voted to recommended that the Town Council accept last fiscal year’s financial statements. Last fall, the Audit Committee temporarily suspended its work, surprising and causing consternation for many in town, pending the adoption of some course-correcting measures that the group had drafted.

First Selectman on Budget: Zero Increase in Staffing

With the exception of the finance department, New Canaan in looking to its operating budget for next fiscal year should not add any new staff, the town’s highest elected official said Wednesday. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi cited a tough economy in calling for the freeze and said only the very highest-priority, must-do capital projects should be considered as the budget-planning season gets underway. What follows is the full text of a statement Mallozzi read at the top of a Board of Selectmen meeting at Town Hall that officially kickstarted budget talks with municipal department heads:

“We begin this 2016-17 budget season in a very different economic environment that we have in years. A relatively strong economy over the past four years has allowed our town to expand services and invest in much needed capital projects. We should be very proud of all we have done and remind folks that we have no intention of going backwards.