‘Weaknesses’ spark finance office shakeup, Tom Stadler to oversee dept.
NEW CANAAN — A shake-up in the town’s Finance Department was brought on by continued concerns, according to officials.
Officials announced Tuesday, March 28 that Town Administrator Tom Stadler will oversee the Finance Department effective immediately.
The move comes after the town’s Audit Committee, formed three years ago, has repeatedly identified “material weaknesses,” serious red flags in auditing terms, in regard to the way the town tied up monthly and quarterly accounts and balanced books and a lack of checks and balances on checks and cash payments coming in and out of the Office of the Tax Collector.
“The AC (Audit Committee) continues to be concerned, however, that the systems and controls (checks and balances) in the Town offices are not what we should all expect,” said Audit Committee Chairman William Parrett in a March 28 letter addressed to First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III and Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert.
“Further,” Parrett continued, “identified weaknesses are not being remediated in a timely manner. Throughout our entire tenure, the town has had unresolved material weaknesses (the most serious category) in the same two important areas.”
A third possible material weakness was also alluded to by Parrett in his letter.
“Serious shortcomings in the check-signing processes, and potentially the maintenance of appropriate controls over the bank accounts themselves, have been disclosed, possibly rising to the level of material weakness,” Parrett wrote.
Despite repeated efforts by the town and the finance department, the material weaknesses have not been completely resolved, according to Mallozzi.
“We certainly as a town tried to correct them. The Finance Department tried to correct them. But they never seemed to get it 100 percent corrected. In the audit world that’s unacceptable,” Mallozzi said. He added that there is no evidence of money missing or impropriety and that the material weaknesses are an issue of process.
Parrett addressed the desire of the committee, as well as the first selectman, to make a material change to the department to ensure the persisting problems are rectified in a timely manner before the committee could sign off on the Town Council’s adoption of the town’s financial statement for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016.
“It became clear to me that the finance staff does a great job in other areas for the town, but in terms of liaising with the Audit Committee and making sure that we’re following directives, we need someone to oversee,” Mallozzi said.
Prior to joining the Town Hall staff more than six years ago, Stadler was a certified public accountant and a partner at Stamford-based financial consultant Deloitte. It is experience that Mallozzi said makes Stadler an ideal candidate.
“He can be the one to say to me, ‘Rob, I will guarantee you these issues will be taken care of,’ ” Mallozzi said. “As an auditor, he also is a very good evaluator of and is in tune with, the process. I want him to evaluate the whole department, and he will bring that to me as my liaison.”
The goal of the personnel change, Mallozzi said, is to resolve remaining deficiencies and find long-term solutions before the end of the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year, in June, and before next year’s audit begins. Citing a personnel issue, Mallozzi said he could not comment on Chief Financial Officer Dawn Norton’s role in the rejiggered department.
“We want to make sure we clean everything up so that when the auditors come back this year, we’re fresh and problems are resolved,” Mallozzi said.