Christine Maisano didn't mince words. She told school Business Manager Jason Lathrop exactly how she felt about the Board of Education getting another bad audit.
"The accounting practices have been unacceptable, misleading and inaccurate," Maisano, a school board member, read from a prepared statement Tuesday evening. "With a staff of seven individuals supervised by a full-time director of finance, I cannot understand why records are not current and complete, why information cannot be provided to the board, who should be overseeing these matters, and why (school Superintendent) Mr. Serio seems to be in the dark when it comes to errors being found."
The FY'10 town and school audit arrived about two weeks ago. It concluded the town had a $5.19 million deficit and cited the school for the same deficiencies that have been noted by auditors for years. Such as, bank reconciliations for operating, payroll and school lunch accounts were not reconciled "in a timely manner." Cash receipts and disbursements were not posted in the general ledger "in a timely manner," resulting in inaccurate cash balances, revenues and expenditures.
"With regards to Mr. Lathrop, I must say I find it insulting that in spite of requests made to him at each meeting, there’s a blatant disregard to provide the Board of Education with information they need to do their jobs for the citizens of East Haven," said Maisano. "Mr. Lathrop never came to us and asked for additional help or conveyed that there were any problems to the board and assured us everything was well with the finances.”
Lathrop quietly listened, offering no defense.
“I’d like to note that I’m embarrassed to be part of a board who is now in the position that they are being asked to present a budget to the town, which at this point in time has no financial credibility," said Maisano. "I demand answers to how this has been allowed to happen."
Maisano called for a "complete investigation" of Lathrop's department.
Asked for comment afterwards, Lathrop said, "No comment. Unfortunately, no comment."
Later on in the meeting, Serio said he wanted to set up a Finance/Grants Subcommittee meeting to discuss the audit. Maisano chairs the subcommittee.
"A type of roll-up-your-sleeves to get answers we haven't gotten before," the superintendent said. "I think it's an important meeting to set things straight."
A meeting to discuss the audit was scheduled for March 14 in the boardroom at the high school. Public is invited to listen but not to comment.
Maisano again had words for Lathrop when discussing a request to pay invoices totaling $2,455,214. She and the board just learned Tuesday evening that a school employee was overpaid $9,000 in Workers' Comp payments. Maisano asked Lathrop to explain.
Lathrop said the individual was overpaid for five months. Lathrop said he and the employee and the union recently met to talk restitution. It was tentatively agreed that the individual would repay the school department over 12 months, Lathrop said, but the agreement had not yet been signed.
"How did this happen?" Maisano would ask several times.
Lathrop offered no explanation.
Board member Tom Hennessey told Lathrop that the overpaid employee could refuse to sign the agreement and take the school to court, and legal fees could amount to $5,000 a week.
Lathrop remained silent.