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Pownal Board to Hear Report on Audits

POWNAL - The Select Board will hear a presentation Thursday on the town's fiscal 2019 audit that will also discuss a separate forensic audit undertaken following allegations of waste and possible fraud.

Rebecca Dragon, the board's liaison, said that, "assuming we have been delivered a final report from our external auditors, I will be presenting those findings. I will also speak generally about the forensic audit, as much as I can possibly say."

The presentation is scheduled for the board's Thursday teleconference meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. The agenda for the meeting will be posted on the town website.

Dragon added, "I will also explain the statutory requirements of towns in regards to audits, and the statutory requirements of that ballot article. Then, I am going to have a senior representative from New England Municipal Resource Center help explain the findings of our audits (past and present), and offer solutions to address the need for ‘more checks and balances.'"

The ballot article referred to was one placed on the March 2020 asking whether the elected town's auditor positions should be eliminated. That was approved on a narrow town meeting vote.

A petition drive now underway seeks to place another question on the 2021 annual ballot to reinstate the internal auditors, which were elected and did not require a certification in the field.

Dragon said her hope is that after the presentation "gossip, rumors, and misunderstandings/misinformation regarding financial malfeasance are quelled, our auditing situation is made clear, our system weaknesses are identified without unfair finger pointing, and real solutions are presented."

She added, "I am presenting a solution to the [accounting] system weaknesses on Thursday for the board to consider, discuss, and hopefully take action on."

That recommendation, she said in an email, is that the elected auditors, if reinstated, should also work with "a non-partisan, hired professional who can speak authoritatively and quantifiably when/if elected auditors make allegations or have false findings due to lack of understanding of municipal accounting."

Jim Therrien, Bennington Banner

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