With only two members of the newly established Audit Committee present, the Town Council voted July 16 to confirm their appointments and officially launch the town's long-awaited financial watchdog group.
The "financial experts," as written in the committee's ordinance, were appointed by First Selectman Robert Mallozzi and approved by the Board of Selectmen July 8. The Town Council voted to create the committee in May following about two years of planning.
"It's a really important function that we're bringing forth to the controls and operations of the (town) government and I think the taxpayers should be very pleased with the recommendations coming from the selectmen," Councilman Penny Young said.
One issue raised at the meeting, however, was the fact that only two of the five members, Jacobson and Maranis, were present.
"It's been a practice of this council since I've been on it to have folks that we are confirming, whether it's Board of Finance or housing authority, to appear before us for us to vote on them," Roger Williams said. "I myself have questions that I'd like to ask these folks."
Williams was the only councilman to vote against the appointments. Kangas and Parrett were unable to attend and Lanaway was in Canada, according to Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert.
"Obviously, it's something that has taken a long time for us to get here and we shouldn't take our duties, in terms of confirming these folks, lightly," Williams said.
"I'm not questioning anybody's credentials or qualifications ... but I don't know how we can vote on folks that are not present."
Councilman Steve Karl, who said Mallozzi did "a great job vetting the candidates," said the vote would allow the committee to start meeting immediately.
"One of the reasons we were trying to get it done tonight was that we're not meeting in August, and I know the Audit Committee wants to get underway and get their training done," Karl said.
Next month's Town Council meeting has been canceled. The next one is scheduled for Sept. 17.
Kathleen Corbet noted that the committee's ordinance calls for the council to simply confirm the appointments.
"For the Board of Finance, you're actually approving the members of the Board of Finance and here we are confirming members who have been appointed by the Board of Selectmen," Corbet, the council's secretary, said. "Let's not postpone this any further than we have already."
Corbet suggested questioning the new appointees at the committee's first meeting.
Some of the committee's duties include assisting the town departments with their financial reporting processes, assisting with the annual independent audit of the town's financial statements, assisting the town in complying with legal and regulatory requirements that could impact its financial statements, and overseeing the town's plan for corrective action "which should include appropriate and timely follow-up measures."
In addition, the committee will meet with the independent auditors during the annual review period to discuss the audit plan and the town's annual financial statements.
Based on such review and discussion, the committee will determine "whether to recommend to the Town Council the adoption of the audited financial statements."
Mallozzi said he received 11 applications for the Audit Committee, some of which came from the individuals and others sent by the Republican and Democratic town committees.
Jacobson and Lanaway are Democrats, and the other three members are Republican.
"I view these folks as very high-profile individuals in town," Karl said. "I know the Board of Selectmen looked at them very closely. I'm totally comfortable with the choices."
Maranis, who's a retired audit partner and consultant at Deloitte, worked as chief administrative officer for the town of New Canaan between 2002 and 2008. At the meeting, he praised the council's efforts in creating the committee's ordinance.
"I read it thoroughly and I want to compliment the Town Council and whoever was involved with that ordinance. It's a meticulous, well-crafted, excellent ordinance," he said. "I'm well aware of the responsibilities that we have and I look forward to meeting with (the town's) management (team) and drafting goals."
Kangas is a non-executive chairman of Tenet Healthcare Corp., lead director at United Technologies and EGS Group, and serves on the boards of IntelSat, Intuit, Hovnanian Enterprises and Deutsche Bank's Americas Advisory Board.
Lanaway is a chartered accountant practitioner providing financial, accounting and tax services to small businesses, corporations and individuals in Canada.
Parrett is on the boards of directors at Blackstone, Eastman Kodak, UBS AG and Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Jacobson works as an assistant controller and chief accountant at Praxair.
Kangas' and Lanaway's terms will expire Dec. 1, 2015; Jacobson's and Maranis' terms will end Dec. 1, 2016; and Parrett's term will continue until Dec. 1, 2017.
Each candidate has a rolling date so that "you have fresh folks coming in every year," Karl said.
Committee members will have no compensation and do not serve on any other office or committees of the town government.
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