HANSON — The Board of Selectmen tabled a decision, on whether to proceed with the town’s contract with Team TMS on the pending audit of WHRSD finances, until their Tuesday, Dec. 14 meeting.
The delay would help the town figure out if it needs to go back to Town Meeting for additional funding and to get a better idea of Whitman’s position on what company does the work.
“I want to make it clear that we cannot have either firm that audits the towns as the firm we bring in to audit WHRSD,” Town Administrator Lisa Green said.
Agreeing that Green was making a good suggestion, Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said she would rather wait to see where the Whitman Board of Selectmen come in on the question. Green said she has had a long conversation about the audit with Whitman Town Administrator Lincoln Heineman, who has told her that he would rather go out to bid again.
“Why are we waiting for them to decide what they want to do?” said Selectman Jim Hickey. “Why don’t we vote the way we want to vote, and if they vote the other way, then we can talk about it.”
Former town administrators from both towns had agreed on the company selected for the audit based on the previous bid, before COVID stalled the process.
“It was laid a little bit to rest,” she said. “Now that it’s come back to life, I want to give you all the options of what we can do.”
Both towns agreed to go out to bid for an auditor a year ago, according to Green. A bid was advertised and one bid was received at that time.
Selectmen discussed the issue at their Tuesday, Dec. 7 meeting.
“There was a company that stated they declined to bid,” Green said. “And here we are, unfortunately, we are almost a year and a half or two years later.”
Green said the audit was put on hold when Hanson decided to begin a de-regionalization study.
“It has resurfaced and the company that put in a proposal — Team TMS — was also the company that was undergoing the de-regionalization study,” she said. “They have been gathering voluminous documents from W-H. They may already have many of the documents required to conduct the audit.”
That company will also honor the price for conducting the audit that they proposed in March 2020, according to Green. She cautioned that, if the town rebid for an auditor right now, they may not receive any more bids and the cost could be higher. The bid process could also take another three or four months and would have to burden the schools to produce the documents.
“Who knows how long the schools may take to comply with the requests for the documents,” Green said. “I just want to present all the options.”
Selectmen Chairman Matt Dyer said his opinion was that Hanson budgeted $14,000 of the $28,000 for the project, divided by the two towns.
“In the light of everything in the last week or so, I say we should just move forward sooner rather than later, and let’s stick with the number that is known, rather than putting it out to bid, but that’s just me,” he said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said that Hanson can’t unilaterally decide on TMS, if they are doing the audit in concert with Whitman.
“I don’t know if we can take a vote tonight in regard to using TMS,” she said, even if Hanson can appreciate that the firm has already begin gathering data.
“I have had a concern recently about, shall we say, some lapse in good judgment that they used in handling the de-regionalization study, enough so that I would not feel comfortable that they would be my pick,” she said. FitzGerald-Kemmett also wanted to know if TMS had any conflict such as projects for the school district.
She said the work done by “our dear, esteemed “former Town Administrator John Stanbrook on Circuit Breaker funds was “extremely alarming” as have some other issues that have cropped up recently.
“Plus, we’ve got all this ESSER money … COVID money, there’s certainly enough that would compel us to say, ‘This would be a good time to do a good, thorough kicking of the tires and an audit of the distict,’” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.