Oak Bluffs has hired an off-Island accountant to resume an investigation into the possible mismanagement of funds at the council on aging, selectman and board chairman Walter Vail said Wednesday.
John Sullivan, an employee of Melanson, Heath & Company, a certified public accounting firm with offices in Andover, has been on the job for one week, Mr. Vail said.
Mr. Sullivan was brought on to conduct a review of the so-called quilting fund, an account that appears to be connected with the town’s council on aging, but managed outside the town treasury.
The fund in question was created to help citizens in need pay for fuel and other emergencies. Referred to as the Quilt Fund for Fuel Assistance, it was originally set up as a town account with proceeds from the sale of quilts made by senior center volunteers. Later, it also became a repository for monies from other activities, including proceeds from an annual road race, according to individuals connected with the account.
The quilting fund is currently operated in a private account at the Edgartown National Bank. Glenna F. Barkan, one of the original quilters, has said she controls the account, and has sole access to its funds.
Roger Wey, director of the council on aging who has said he played a role in connecting needy individuals to account funds, has been on paid administrative leave since mid-February.
Last month, selectmen voted 4-0 with one abstention to call in an outside investigator. A previous investigation conducted by the town police force lasted three weeks, but did not produce any criminal charges. Still, the town’s special labor counsel, Jack Collins, wrote in a March memorandum to selectmen that initial findings detailed in the police report “indicate potentially a great many irregularities.” He went on to advise the town to hire a party with expertise in financial matters. The police are not involved in the current investigation.
Mr. Sullivan has been asked to conduct “a complete accounting of the sources and uses of those funds,” a process that might be described as forensic accounting, Mr. Vail said. He will work alongside town accountant Arthur Gallagher.
Council on aging clients have protested the town’s actions, saying the matter should not have been dealt with in public session. Selectmen said they wanted to maintain transparency with voters.
Investigator John Sullivan told the town that his services would not exceed $15,000, Mr. Vail said. He said Mr. Sullivan charges $210 per hour, but could not provide a timeline for the investigation going forward.
“We are hoping to get this behind us as quickly as we can,” Mr. Vail said.