LIVERMORE — The town has submitted a claim to one of its insurance providers to try to recoup thousands of dollars officials allege a former treasurer and administrative assistant overpaid herself.

Last May, the town requested that former Treasurer and Administrative Assistant Amy Byron repay $11,374.88 it claims she owes the town based on an independent audit.

As of Friday, the town had not received any of the money.

On Dec. 7,  the board voted take legal action against Byron to get taxpayers’ money back, and last month town officials submitted a claim to insurance provider Maine Municipal Association Risk Management in the hope of recouping the money. “Now that this has been done, MMA will determine if the town will be able to recoup those funds,” the board’s administrative assistant, Aaron Miller, wrote in an email.

If the insurance provider denies the claim, the town could consider further action.

The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office investigated the overpayments and the case was reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office. No charges were filed against Byron.

Advertisement

In late 2020, after discrepancies appeared in the town’s finances, officials hired RHR Smith & Co. of Buxton to do a forensic audit.

An auditor’s letter and information sent to the town as a result of that audit includes information alleging Byron had overpaid herself $11,374.88 starting in September 2016.

Miller sent Byron a letter on May 4 on behalf of the board asking her to meet with selectpersons in executive session to explain the auditor’s findings. Byron did not attend.

Officials requested town attorney Matt Tarasevich of Berstein Shur in Portland send a letter requesting repayment by June 1.

After no money was repaid on June 1, the board requested a criminal investigation be done. Androscoggin County Sheriffs Detective Troy Young conducted the investigation and submitted his report to the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office.

Byron, of Livermore, was initially appointed interim treasurer in Livermore in 2014. Voters elected her as treasurer the same year. She was appointed interim administrative assistant in March 2016 and then hired for the position later that year.

Advertisement

Byron left her position as administrative assistant in Livermore in June 2020 to become the tax collector and registrar of voters in Livermore Falls. She resigned her elected Livermore treasurer position in November 2020. She was appointed Livermore Falls town clerk in May 2021 and still holds that position, along with the positions of tax collector and registrar of voters.

In December 2020, RHR Smith sent town officials a four-page letter detailing  concerns about financial practices, including  errors in preparation of the certificate of assessment for three years, incorrect amounts remitted for employees’ retirement and other examples of what was termed “bad math.” The town also was required to pay fines for late IRS payments.

RHR Smith then conducted a forensic audit and reported its findings to the board in April and early May 2021. The firm alleged Byron was overpaid $11,374.88 from Sept. 5, 2016, to July 20, 202o. Overall, the town also paid $9,500 for the audit and $5,000 in legal fees related to overpayment.

The Sun Journal submitted a Maine Freedom of Access Act request to obtain financial records from the town.

The following is a breakdown of payments the town alleges Byron inappropriately made to herself, based on the auditor’s findings:

• Sept. 5, 2016: “Paid herself 40 hours of sick leave in addition to her regular pay. Overpayment: $850.”

Advertisement

• June 26, 2017: She was paid her regular salary of $1,700 in addition to $1,700 in vacation pay. Payout of unused vacation was not allowed until 2018 and if she took the time off, she double paid herself, according to auditors. Overpayment was $1,700.

• June 24, 2019: “If leave time not taken, supposed to only be paid at half available. No leave time was recorded as used and she (was) paid full two weeks in addition to her salary along with a personal day that wasn’t recorded as taken, but it was taken. It shouldn’t be added to her earnings.” She “was paid her regular salary of $1,734.16 in addition to $1,904.16 vacation and personal time,” making the overpayment $1,904.16.

• July 8, 2019: “Timecard indicated three vacation days and one holiday. Paid herself double for those days, and also for half personal day not on timecard.” She “was paid her regular salary of $1,734.16 in addition to $952.09.” Overpayment was $952.09.

• Sept. 16, 2019: “Slip for one week vacation ‘cash in’ dated Sept. 12, 2019, eight hours sick time and 10 hours of holiday time on timesheet not shown as recorded.” She “was paid for cashing in one vacation week time.” In addition, her “normal bi-weekly salary in September was $1,751.60 and the additional vacation pay was also $1,751.60, which would have been equivalent to two weeks rather than one week stated on her disbursement request form.” Auditors put the overpayment at $1,401.40.

• June 22, 2020: She “had already ‘cashed in’ one week in September so the most available would be one week and that should be paid at half. No leave time was recorded,” making the overpayment $2,091.60.

• July 20, 2020: “Payout of unused sick time is not allowable and (Select) Board did not sign the warrant for this payment.” . . . “Amy Byron upon her resignation appears to have been compensated for her unused sick leave. We found on July 20, 2020, 116.5 hours of sick time was paid in the amount of $2,475.63. Additionally, it also appears that this payroll warrant was never signed by the board,” according to auditor’s letter. Records show the overpayment at $2,475.63.

Advertisement

Regarding the last item, “We found that in the Personnel Policy and Procedures handbook that there is no payment due to an employee upon resignation or termination for unused sick days,” according to the auditor’s report. Instead, the town’s policy is that “all accumulated unused sick leave shall be forfeited upon separation.”

In a letter dated Nov. 15, 2021, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Matulis advised Select Board Chairman Mark Chretien that he had reviewed the case investigated by the Sheriff’s Office, and “after careful review of investigative reports, relevant town policy manuals, the audit report, and past approved payroll warrants by the town selectmen, the state of Maine will not be filing criminal charges in this matter due to insufficient evidence to prove that a crime occurred beyond reasonable doubt standard.”

“Moreover, with the exception of the final payment for sick time, the payments to Ms. Byron were approved through the issuance of payroll warrants. While against the written policy, the state does not possess any information that Ms. Byron in fact knew these payments were against the town policies. The processing of the payments through payroll warrants in multiple years would give Ms. Byron a basis to claim that she believed, at the time, that these payments were appropriate.”

Last month, Byron’s attorney, Verne Paradie Jr. of Paradie, Rabasco & Seasonwein in Lewiston, replied to a request for a comment from the Sun Journal in an email.

“As you know, Ms. Byron does not, and will not, face criminal prosecution in this matter. That should be very telling. While the town may seek civil action, Ms. Byron did not misappropriate funds and we believe she will prevail, while the town will spend tens of thousands of dollars in litigation costs,” Paradie wrote.

According to board Administrative Assistant Miller, town officials have tightened up controls and oversight on financial matters, and in June voters approved the change in treasurer’s position from an elected one to one that is appointed.

The town’s administrative assistant now reviews payroll, and the treasurer enters and issues checks and warrants for review by the board. Dual control was implemented, which requires signatures from both the administrative assistant and the treasurer on bank accounts.

The administrative assistant now reviews daily audit reports, and an overtime, sick time and compensation time report is presented to the board prior to approval.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: