Spin spin spin.
Ruth Platner and her political action committee, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, have been hard at work spinning the fact that 3 million dollars is missing from the Unassigned Fund Balance. It was erroneously reported to be in there in June of 2020.
Yes, Ms. Platner, many of us in Charlestown are concerned about 3 million dollars.
The money is not in the Unassigned Fund Balance (the surplus). Period. Ms. Platner claims that this issue is like owning a car and moving it from the driveway to the garage. She claims it is still your car either way. But that metaphor breaks down in very important ways. She leaves out the fact that the garage will be locked with your car inside and you can’t get it out to use it.
The taxpayers thought we had $3 million available for use in the budget process this year, but we don't. The money isn't there.
It is particularly worrisome that our internal controls broke down and it took over a year for someone to become aware of it. This is precisely why we need an independent audit of our internal controls.
The Town Administrator acknowledged on February 10, 2022, that "there was a miscommunication/ nondisclosure between the auditor and the Town Treasurer" in 2020 and there was also a reporting error that occurred in 2017 based on the town's review of itself.
The Town's auditors do not issue an opinion on the Town's internal controls. That is not part of their audit. They state that in their letter attached to the audit. Based on the fact a 3 million dollar error was made in FY20 and a $275,000 error in FY17, and based on the fact the town had three treasurers in three years, it makes good financial sense to have an Independent / Forensic audit of the town's internal controls.
If this was your personal bank account, and your advisor told you had an extra 3 million dollars to spend and you spent it, and you were then told, "Oops, we made a mistake. You really didn't have that money to spend". Would you be okay with this? I wouldn't.
Remember that car from Ms. Platner's analogy that was parked in the driveway but is now in the garage? Well, now it is going to cost 3 million dollars to get that car out of the garage.
Regardless of what off-base,“ car in the garage” analogies Ruth and her friends use, it does not replace the 3 million dollars that is no longer in the Unassigned Fund.
Charlestown Town Council President
This article appeared as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on March 1, 2022.