By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
GRAND ISLE -- The Grand Isle Selectboard will hold a special meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. with its town auditor following a sometimes contentious meeting about town financial records on Monday.
Selectboard members Adam White and Eric Godin reported Monday they met with Town Clerk and Treasurer Melissa Boutin to discuss town finances and to review how the board can get quarterly reports routinely to better understand the financial standing of Grand Isle.
The quarterly reports were not good enough for some of the more than 150 taxpayers that had signed a petition presented two weeks ago that requested the Selectboard seek a forensic audit of all town funds for the past three years.
There have been no public claims of criminal misconduct and Boutin has repeatedly said her books are always open for inspection. She said she will provide any information the board seeks.
Selectboard Chair Jeff Parizo said the outside auditor Ron Smith, managing partner of RHR Smith & Company of Buxton, Maine was unable to attend Monday.
Parizo promised he would reach out Tuesday morning to set up a public meeting with Smith as soon as possible. The result was the special meeting called for Thursday evening.
Linda Effel and Randy Gover, two of the petition organizers, have said the signers are concerned that the town has failed to follow state law when it comes to providing public financial reports. The petition notes the Selectboard has never received quarterly financial reports for at least two years as required by law.
White and Godin said Boutin has agreed to provide the quarterly report for March 31 before the end of April. White said they thought providing 30 days for the report was reasonable, but the full board could reduce it.
Parizo said he expects reports also for the first two quarters.
Boutin agreed to get the first reports emailed to the Selectboard by this Friday.
Gover said the books should be up to date and a month should not be needed, but Boutin and others maintained it takes time to resolve some ledgers because of accounts payable and receivable.
Selectboard member Diane Cota questioned Effel, who was a former assistant for Boutin, why she did not bring the issue forward when working at the town offices. Effel said she became aware of the state’s mandatory reporting law only recently.
She said she did not know, had not been fully trained and was working for Boutin.
“I just took direction from Melissa,” she said. Effel said she had moved over from the zoning office to become Boutin’s assistant.
Her responses brought a crude remark from one man in the audience. The meeting also saw people speaking before called upon and out of turn. At one point Cota appeared frustrated, threw up her hands and walked away from her computer.
Joe Longo, a town lister, tried to challenge Effel’s credentials, asking her for her background.
Mitchel Richardson, a local property owner, said his review of meeting minutes from 2014 to 2017 showed then-Selectboard member Mark Cobb had questioned about getting financial records multiple times, but they appeared to fall on “deaf ears.”
Effel, a former Grand Isle County State’s Attorney, questioned if White had a conflict of interest in dealing with Boutin. Boutin serves as treasurer for the volunteer fire department and White is an assistant fire chief.
White questioned what was his conflict. Effel said “he may have.”
Parizo said the town does have a conflict-of-interest policy and all that can be done is to bring the issue to light.
Local resident Bill Stone said the board could direct Boutin to provide a summary of any large items at each meeting to help keep any significant changes or trends in mind.
The petition also noted the Grand Isle Selectboard has not approved the investment or reinvestment of any monies received by the town treasurer on behalf of the town for at least two years as required by state law.
During the meeting there also was considerable discussion about money that Boutin had said she transferred into Certificates of Deposit for a higher interest rate. She did not get board approval as required.
She said the $350,000 CD was due to mature in a few days and had thought about rolling it over for another month.
Stone noted the meeting was getting to be unproductive.
Parizo said Selectboard members were in a “holding pattern” until they have the financials in front of them. “I just want to see the reports.”