By RUSSELL JONES
Several Brandon residents questioned to the town’s selectboard at its meeting Monday, Sept. 9, regarding what are allegedly improper payments of Segment 6 funds that led to the resignation of Department of Public Works Director Daryl Burlett.
Many of the questions involved the process of how payments are handled with the project. Board members did not have all the answers at Monday’s meeting, but expect to be able to answer all of the questions at the next selectboard meeting. Chairman Seth Hopkins did, however, explain the process by which Segment 6 payments are processed.
According to Hopkins, when a sub-contractor submits an invoice, the contractor, Casella in this case, reviews the invoice before sending it on to the project’s inspecting engineers.
“Because the vendor was Mr. Burlett, the invoice did not go through Casella,” Hopkins said in Monday’s meeting. He added that under normal circumstances it would then go to the engineers, but again, because the vendor was Burlett that did not happen. “Normally an invoice would then go to the municipal project manager, which was Mr. Burlett,” Hopkins continued, “who approved the invoice.”
Hopkins said a typical invoice would then go to the town bookkeeper for checks to be prepared. He did clarify that the treasurer does not authorize payments, she only signs checks and authorizes disbursements that have been approved.
“Finally, the invoice comes to the selectboard for approval as a warrant,” Hopkins said. For this payment to Mr. Burlett, “we declined to do that.”
Because Segment 6 is federally funded, it falls under the Federal Prompt Payment Act guidelines. Those guidelines stipulate when a vendor is paid after submitting an invoice. In some cases, the board will see those invoices on the warrant before it is paid, but in other cases the payment must be made before the board meets again.
That was the main factor in this situation. Hopkins assured those residents at the meeting that steps had already been taken to insure this would not be able to happen again. One resident questioned how no one caught this oversight before it happened.
“Unfortunately, I took 10 days vacation around that time,” Atherton said.
The reason the board has not spoken widely about this situation in the public sessions previously is because of the rules regarding public employees. Hopkins said that up until Burlett resigned, because he was still a town employee, the matter had to be discussed in executive session.
After his resignation, the town sought legal counsel and that requires some degree of confidentiality.
“The town has retained legal counsel as this is a matter of significance for us,” Hopkins said. “We welcome the public holding us accountable for our fiduciary responsibilities.”
Selectman Doug Bailey said his goal was “total transparency” and he expected to be able to answer the questions submitted by the residents in public session in a couple of weeks. Hopkins added that because it was in the hands of attorneys now, he thought they should get their answers “blessed” by the attorneys first.
“I am 100 percent confident that the town has done nothing wrong, and the taxpayers will not be harmed,” Hopkins said.
The next meeting of the Brandon Selectboard will be on Monday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.
CLARIFICATION: In the Aug. 28 edition of The Reporter, we paraphrased a phone interview with Brandon Town Manager Dave Atherton concerning this issue with former town employee Daryl Burlett in a way that some readers may have misconstrued.
We wrote that Atherton said the outcome of the issue may depend on whether Burlett paid back money he allegedly wrongly received from the Segment 6 project, but those comments were part of a longer conversation in which Atherton said too many issues were still unknown to know what the outcome might be.
During that conversation, Atherton never suggested or implied that he or the town would skirt the law to prevent any party involved in being held accountable.