BYRON — A representative from the accounting firm RHR Smith & Co. told residents Thursday night that since the town’s last audit in 2014, when it was already three years behind on audits, things “have gotten much worse.”

At a special town meeting, accountant Ron Smith said his review of Byron’s municipal records has found them to be inaccurate. He also said his audit of the town’s financial records will require much more work than he had originally anticipated.

“When you handed us the information for those four years, let me just say this: It’s not accurate. It’s not the best practice. And there’s a lot of research (to be done) to understand where the issues are,” Smith said.

“When you passed your budget to try to correlate with all the money that was spent … we can’t correlate that. When you do your tax bills, it’s all manual. The information is either missing or incomplete. The information that you have is so bad we’ve got to reconstruct those years.”

The purpose of Thursday’s special town meeting was for residents to vote on several articles regarding the town’s finances, including two articles related to the town’s compensation for RHR Smith.

Board members James Ramey and Linda Joyal, who were elected in March, signed the warrant notifying residents of the meeting, and participated in voting on all articles.

Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds, who has been a board member since 2008, did not sign the warrant, remained silent throughout the meeting and abstained from voting on all articles.

Residents voted to transfer $5,000 from the town’s snow removal account to cover legal services. The money is needed to pay the balance owed to RHR Smith for auditing 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. The total cost for the four years is $17,000, and the town has already paid $12,000 from its legal account.

Residents also voted to transfer $10,000 from the discount of taxes account to cover any additional audit expenses.

“When you hand us information, we expect it to be accurate and reliable. It’s not that way at all,” said Smith, who said he has had to contact third parties, such as banks and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, to gain accurate information.

The $10,000 will also go toward an audit for Jan. 1 to April 11, 2018, which is needed because there was a change of town clerks. Allison Freeman, who held the town clerk/tax collector/ treasurer position for five years, resigned in April, a week after the audit began. The board of selectmen has appointed Rosey Susbury to take her place.

Smith said that when the town received the audit results for 2011, 2012 and 2013, municipal officials were told there were issues with Byron’s bookkeeping practices. He said they also sent a “management letter” pointing out mistakes made by town officials and how to correct them.

“There has been clear-and-blatant neglect here for years,” resident Philip Paquette said.

Resident Cheryl Wade urged that others in the community not point fingers until the audit is complete and the town has received the results.

Smith said he anticipated having the audit done within 60 days.

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SUN JOURNAL FILE PHOTO


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