Byron clerk quits week after audit begins

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BYRON — An ongoing audit of the town’s books and other financial records — the first audit in five years — has revealed significant financial discrepancies, including missing funds.

“There’s money missing — quite a lot. You’ll be surprised,” newly elected Selectman James Ramey told the board Thursday night. “We’re going to have a town meeting when we get the results back. There will be a lot of shocked ears when this happens.”

Immediately before Thursday’s meeting, Allison Freeman submitted her letter of resignation as Byron’s town clerk, treasurer and tax collector.

In the letter, dated April 11 (Wednesday), Freeman wrote that she was resigning because of harassment, a town divide and an inability to fulfill the requirements of the job.

Freeman’s letter alluded to the missing money and other financial irregularities revealed by the ongoing audit.

“Due to the many recent changes in the Town Office and the issues that have been brought to light, I’ve come to realize that even though I tried my best and followed direction and policies of previous employees/selectmen, I was not fulfilling my job requirement to what some are calling state standards,” Freeman wrote in her letter.

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Freeman, town clerk for five years, wrote that she did not feel safe at work following an alleged incident April 5 when she called police to the Town Office because she was being harassed by a local woman.

“The emotional distress that followed that incident as witnessed by both (Selectmen) Linda Joyal and James Ramey, and also the auditors, should never have happened,” Freeman wrote.

An audit was initiated last week after it was learned that Byron’s lax municipal policies and procedures have resulted in a town whose books have not been audited since 2013.

Ramey said the town has missed audits previous to 2013. An audit done in 2012, for example, was to make up for none done in 2010 and 2011.

Issues with the town’s methods came to light after two new selectmen — Ramey and Joyal — were elected at the annual town meeting in March and learned the town had not had an audit in years.

“I questioned to see the audits, and the last one I could find was 2012, but we did actually have one in 2013, as well,” Joyal said. “I found through meeting statutes that we’re required to do them every year, so here we are trying to catch up.”

Anne Simmons-Edmunds, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen and a board member since 2008, said the town has not had an audit in five years because of a “lack of attention to detail.” She also said the auditing firm the town had been using was “getting a little pricey.”

Simmons-Edmunds said she had asked Freeman to shop around for other auditors, but it must have “gotten lost in the shuffle.”

At Thursday’s meeting, selectmen appointed Rosie Susbury the town’s temporary clerk, tax collector and treasurer. Susbury has filled the three positions in the past.

Susbury plans to be in the office during regular business hours next week. Susbury will fill the position until the town meeting in June, when an official can be elected. In the meantime, Susbury will train a deputy clerk, whom selectmen hope will be trained and willing to run for the position by June.

The Byron Town Office, usually open Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m and Thursdays from 8 a.m to 1 p.m, was not open during any of its normal hours this week.

Joyal said she received a call from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, letting her know that it had received Freeman’s packet containing the town’s registration stickers and notification of her resignation April 7.

The town’s ongoing audit is being done by RHR Smith & Co. of Buxton. Selectmen are scheduled to meet with the auditors April 19.

Page 1 of a three-page letter left for Byron selectmen by Allison Freeman, who resigned her position as town clerk.Page 2 of a three-page letter left for Byron selectmen by Allison Freeman, who resigned her position as town clerk.Page 3 of a three-page letter left for Byron selectmen by Allison Freeman, who resigned her position as town clerk.

A note posted on the Byron Town Office door reads “Town Office Closed 4/12/18.” The office was not open as usual Tuesday and Thursday because Town Clerk/Tax Collector/Treasurer Allison Freeman abruptly resigned, handing in her written resignation to selectmen Thursday night. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

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