A three-week investigation into financial activity at the Oak Bluffs council on aging has produced no criminal charges.
The Oak Bluffs police concluded that “probable cause does not currently exist to charge anyone with criminal violation,” following an investigation into the financial activities of the town’s senior center and its director, Roger Wey, according to a report obtained from the police this week.
The controversy concerns a fund that was created to provide help to citizens in need of money to pay for fuel and other emergency needs. Referred to as the Quilt Fund for Fuel Assistance, the fund was originally set up as a town account with proceeds from the sale of quilts made by senior center volunteers.
The fund is currently operated in a private account at the Edgartown Savings Bank. Glenna F. Barkan, one of the original quilters, controls the account, and has sole access to its funds.
Town accountant Arthur Gallagher told selectmen last month that he was made aware of an issue involving the fund after a check from the fund signed by Ms. Barkan was denied by Stop & Shop. The woman for whom the check was issued came to town hall to inquire why the check had been denied.
Mr. Gallagher told the selectmen that Mr. Wey had been brought in for discussion, but conversations with him were “very convoluted,” he said, recalling that Mr. Wey said, “Oh, that shouldn’t have happened.”
In their vote to initiate the investigation, selectmen followed the suggestion of town’s special labor counsel, Jack Collins, “to determine whether laws are being violated and if all monies have been properly accounted for,” according to a memorandum addressed to selectmen that week.
Oak Bluffs selectmen voted to request a police investigation into the financial activities of director Roger Wey and the council on aging, and Mr. Wey was put on paid administrative leave. At the time, Mr. Wey told the Gazette that he welcomed an investigation, and said that he had explained the situation to the town last fall.
Mr. Wey told police that the quilting fund was originally set up as a town account, but on the advice of former town accountant Paul Manzi, its use was discontinued and a new fuel assistance fund was set up under the personal control of Ms. Barkan.
Private management of the fund “made it easier for Wey to distribute the money without the extra bureaucratic paperwork that took time when the money was urgently needed,” the police wrote in the report.
Mr. Wey said that Susan Von Steiger, outreach coordinator for the council, maintains the Quilt Fund records and is in charge of delivering the checks directly to the recipients or to the companies. She provided police with a folder containing mostly blank checks and a brief description of what the checks were for, according to police.
The police report does present evidence of negligence on Mr. Wey’s part to maintain records of the beneficiaries or amounts of fund assistance.
In an interview Wednesday morning at the police station, Lieut. Tim Williamson said the town received the report last week.
“Simply looking at it from a criminal aspect, we have closed the case for now,” Mr. Williamson said.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Mr. Wey said, “Everybody I have spoken to knows me and knows none of this was true. And they keep asking me why was this done, and I want to say my integrity over many years in public service has prevailed in this issue.”
Town accountant Arthur Gallagher did not return a request for comment on Wednesday.
Chairman Walter Vail said he had not yet seen the police report, as he was still traveling. “Hope to learn more tomorrow and begin to determine what further steps, if any, we need to take,” Mr. Vail wrote in an email.
Selectman Gail Barmakian said Wednesday that she had not seen the investigative report and did not know how the town planned to proceed. At a selectman’s meeting Tuesday evening, she asked about the status of the report, but was told the town didn’t have anything yet.
Office administrator Alice Butler wrote in an email on Wednesday that the selectmen had not received the report.
Robert L. Whritenour, the town administrator, who according to police received regular updates regarding the progress of the investigation, said by phone Wednesday that he had not seen the report, nor could he comment on the town’s plans going forward.