Oak Bluffs selectmen appeal for emergency accounting funds

Oak Bluffs selectmen will ask the finance and advisory committee to use its emergency reserve fund to hire a private firm for accounting work.

Voters appropriated $57,650 for the emergency reserve fund at the annual spring town meeting. The money can only be used by a vote of the finance and advisory committee. The committee meets later today.

In the current fiscal year budget proposed by selectmen and approved by voters, there is no appropriation to continue the consulting contract with Sullivan, Rogers, and Company, the firm that has handled accounting duties for the past several months. Voters rejected a Proposition 2.5 override question that included $75,000 to fund the accountant’s position full-time.

The town has struggled with financial work and reporting deadlines since the untimely death of town finance director and treasurer Paul Manzi in October, 2010.

Selectman Walter Vail said on Monday he talked to officials at the Department of Revenue (DOR) who are concerned about the town’s finances, including an estimated $913,000 deficit in the free cash fund, and work needed to meet financial reporting deadlines.

He said DOR officials suggested that the town find a way to get Sullivan, Rogers, and Company back on the job as early as next Monday, so the state will have some confidence that accounting is done properly.

“I took that more as a directive than suggestion,” Mr. Vail said. “It’s of primary importance. It’s a must.”

The board discussed scheduling a special town meeting for September to ask voters for money to reimburse the finance and advisory committee’s emergency reserve fund, and to hire an accountant or a consulting firm for the rest of the year.

Following the public session Tuesday, selectmen met for nearly two hours in executive session. The board said discussion of discipline or dismissal of a town employee, and strategy regarding contract negotiation with town employees, was the reason for the secret meeting. Selectmen planned to include their labor attorney, Jack Collins, by conference telephone call during the executive session.

Selectmen continued the executive session to Friday, July 8, for more discussion of discipline or dismissal of a town employee. This is the fourth time selectmen have continued that discussion. Knowledgable sources have told The Times the discussion is over the job performance of town administrator Michael Dutton.