Editorial: Long road shows vigilance paysAfter attending the April 2008 annual town meeting I came away with many questions on town of Wascott finances and business practices.
By: By Janice Newsome, Superior Telegram
“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful, it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.”
– King Whitney Jr.
After attending the April 2008 annual town meeting I came away with many questions on town of Wascott finances and business practices. My requests for public records were met with hostility and resistance. In June 2008, I urged the Town Board to have a legal audit. Because the town has a combined clerk-treasurer office, state law requires a CPA audit at least annually. However, Wascott had not had an audit since 1999.
In January 2009, the prior Town Board finally engaged auditor services. Immediately the auditors found irregularities and what was expected to be a routine audit turned into something much larger and more costly. By February 2009, the former clerk and assessor resigned from public office and a criminal investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice was underway.
Now, 13 months later, we have the final audit reports of the certified public accountants. The reports show the town of Wascott operated under a flawed system — a system lacking internal controls. It was a system under which public monies were misappropriated, and private interests could prevail over the best interests of taxpayers. For the period of November 2001 through May 2008, a total of $72,426 was misappropriated. Is it just coincidence that the misdeeds ended in the same month that I began requesting financial records?
In December 2008, I announced my candidacy for Wascott Town Board. In my campaign for reform in town government, I wrote many news articles and have been accused by some individuals of creating fiction for purely political purposes. The CPA audit report and management letter released on Feb. 9 substantiate the issues I raised were reality and not fiction.
In April 2009, Wascott elected a new town board. In May 2009, the new town board enacted financial policies to establish internal controls to protect the public interests and to do business within the law. The new board will persevere and continue to make changes that are in the best interests of the taxpayers.
Janice Newsome was elected Wascott board chairwoman last year.