The March 7 edition of The Westerly Sun has a letter from Bonnie Van Slyke (“The truth is still missing in Charlestown”) which, like the letter from Ruth Platner earlier, attempts to explain away the missing $3 million from the budget. Both letters use analogies to support their position. Both analogies are not only faulty, but point out the very problem, in my opinion, many of us have with the Charlestown Citizens Alliance-dominated and -controlled Town Council.
Ms. Platner’s analogy is that when a person takes his car and places it in his garage, he knows where it is and what it is worth, so it is not missing. Ms. Van Slyke’s analogy is when a person takes $300 from his savings account and places it in his checking account, he knows where it is and what it is worth, so it is not missing. The problem is that the $3 million is NOT CCA’s money, but the taxpayers’ money. CCA does seem to act at times like taxpayer money is their money. They may know where it is and how much is involved, but it is the non-CCA members of the council, and more importantly, the taxpayers of Charlestown, who are the ones that need to have this information and to know the amounts involved. They are the ones not told of the diversion.
A more apt analogy is a bit more complicated. It is as if someone has a $3 million car and his neighbor, without telling him, takes it and places it in his (the neighbor’s) garage to be used by the neighbor whenever and for whatever the neighbor wants without the owner’s knowledge or approval. The neighbor knows where the car is and what it is worth, so I guess it is not missing. Given the CCA’s penchant for using town money for projects they support (examples include a proposed $3 million senior center that was not needed, a $300,000 bike path that was supposed to cost $7,000, the purchase of properties at prices far above the appraised value of the property, the purchase of an extraordinarily large amount of “open space” that is far beyond what the town needs, and the CCA-supported plan to generate an unneeded and not recommended 33% budget surplus), the concern with possible fraud that Ms. Van Slyke alludes to is not unreasonable. To get to the bottom of this $3 million “accounting error,” Council President Deb Carney suggested the town undergo a forensic audit.
The fact that CCA and its councilors oppose this audit does not reduce the suspicions many of us have about the truth around the “misplaced” money.
Kenneth Robbins, Charlestown
This article appeared as a Letter to The Editor in The Westerly Sun on March 13, 2022.