Questions surrounding replacement of auditor

| 42 Comments
As previously covered, at the January 20th Borough Council meeting, council members were asked to vote for or against contracting with Suplee Clooney & Company, an auditing firm to replace the existing contract with Ernst and Young.  E&Y was not only $5,000 more expensive but was on-watch at the time of the $624,000. overpayment error and late audit.  The resolution passed by all but one vote.
 
We have received copies of letters from the Borough to Ernst & Young, attesting to a mutually agreed upon termination of contract.  The first letter is dated January 5, 2009.  
 
Council was first asked to vote on replacing E&Y at the January 20th council meeting, after the termination letter had already been mailed.   
 
The E&Y auditor had been working with the borough for 15 years.  Governor Corzine has proposed an ethics pacakge that would hold outside contractors to a 10 year relationship-limit with municipalities and school boards.  Councilman Pete Cammarano sees no reason to go beyond five.  "Municipal accounting is pretty straight forward," he said "any certified accounting firm should be able to step in and handle the job. The borough would benefit from a fresh perspective."
 
Accourding to Councilman Justin Manley, "I had actually learned of the letter during a phone conversation with Randy Nelson, of E&Y, on Thursday January 15th.  To say that was an awkward situation is an understatement.  The phone call to Mr. Nelson on the 15th was actually the 2nd conversation I had had with him regarding his firm's services and performance as the Borough Auditor but the first one after the letter of January 5th terminating our relationship.  He was unaware that I did not know of their termination.  Upon learning of this information, I immediately authored an email to the Borough Administrator stating, "It has come to my attention that the Borough has already terminated the services of Ernst & Young effective 12/31/2008 via a letter issued by the Borough Attorney.  I believe that this action is out of order and that it requires an action of the Borough Council to make such a decision." Mr. Boerth, the Borough Administrator, forward my email to the Borough Attorney who concluded that it did in fact require Council approval.  The conversation and debate occurred at the meeting on the 20th, some in closed session and some in open session.  The hiring of Suplee Clooney as the new auditor demonstrates the result of that conversation."
 
Mr Manley asked to make it clear that he is not the source of the letters we are publishing and realizes that they are available through an OPRA request.  He also adds "I believe that the debate on this matter has ended and the vote to hire Suplee Clooney was clear.  While I was disappointed in both my own ability to convince the other members of the Council to pause their action and conduct further research, I have to accept the outcome and move on. What I would like to add though is that I will not accept "business as usual" and as long as I remain on Council I will do what I believe is necessary and appropriate to see that the services the tax payers are receiving are of the highest caliber and worthy of their investment in our municipality.  I think it reasonable and required to explore all sides of an issue to determine the best course and in this instance I do not believe the situation the Council was presented with allowed for that.  We, and the public, know for certain that we have had substantial accounting errors and we know that for the fiscal year 2007 we had a less than stellar audit.  As a businessperson who deals with audits constantly, I am cognizant of how these things happen and felt the prudent choice was to conduct an independent review, led by Council, that would have included ALL parties involved.  The hiring of a new auditor, at a reduced cost, will indeed be a fresh set of eyes on the matters and a savings for the Borough which I can not deny.  However to dismiss and fail to include the previous auditor's position on the matters was effectively rendering a decision without reviewing all of the facts.  By terminating our relationship with E&Y we gave them no reason at all to continue to work with us to ensure we fully understood the challenges they identified and the best solutions to those items.  It is my hope that the new auditors will reach out to Ernst & Young and while not required to do so, that E&Y will provide them with the years of insight they had on these matters."  

42 Comments

It's not small to the members of the Park Association.

I agree. We should focus on the big issues like those stated in the post above.
"Don't sweat the small stuff"!

They want use to talk about the trees so we forget about the $624,000 accounting error or the $750,000 in escrow for the 287 interchange (what happened to that?) or the fact that the measly $5000 they bragged about saving by changing auditors has now been wasted on investigating the removal of two non-shade trees that were going to be replaced all along.

Seems logical to me. When we had a tree cut down, the tree service left the wood behind because we wanted it for firewood. The Park Association wanted to put the tree branches in the park, so they had the tree guy bring the trees to a nearby member's home, whose house happens to abut the park.

How come the cops didn't take possession of the evidence? Did we send a CSI unit out to determine cause of death? Were DNA tests run to prove that these two trees in the guys backyard were, in fact, the same trees that were cut down?

Are you people seriously arguing about this topic? A funny one off line is fine, but if this is what you are actually getting worked up about, I feel sorry for you.

They were only put in the park after he got busted

And how did he get busted? They asked the tree service guy where the trees were and he told them the Dr asked him to deliver the two to his house.

Then they went there and found them

How nuts is that?

You stop making stuff up. No one told the tree guy the trees were going to be used as Christmas trees, that is your fantasy. The police report doesn't mention the word Christmas. It does say the trees were in one person's backyard, not two, but that is not where they are now. They were cut up and placed in the park.

That is a lie, they were in his backyard.

He told the tree guy he wanted to use them as Christmas trees.

Stop making stuff up...

As Dr. Primich previously posted on MM, the trees were cut up and the branches placed in Woodwild Park to compost naturally. If you're familiar with the park, some of the branches are near where the flagpole used to be.

No lobbying jobs from the municipal accountants' association for you!

http://rmasofnj.com/

All you have to do is file an OPRA request with the Borough clerk. She'll get you what you need and put you in a conference room. OPRA form is on the Borough website.

http://www.metuchennj.org/OPRA-request-form.pdf

Does anyone know if it is possible for a taxpayer of Metuchen to examine the books? I would be interested in doing my own personal audit.

Wonder if Pete thinks that about the Att? Engineer? Boro Admin? All the Directors?

I think the BIL figurines are lovely. Especially the one of Borough Hall. Oh, sorry, I mean the former Borough Hall. You know, the one with the leaky basement. Oh, wait, that applies to both of them.

I think the Borough Improvement League is behind the tree incident. Not even the worst model maker in China could duplicate those nasty trees. Those figurines need to be accurate and wouldn't sell as is.

Consulting companies are usually experts on the laws that apply to to their own hiring and firing. E&Y does have law firms in other countries, but not in the US.

Better check the Doctors house, the trees are probably there, LOL

http://www.boroughimprovementleague.org/3.html

Get 'em while they're hot - Borough Improvment League's Metuchen figurine of St. Luke's includes the Historic Horse Trough! And does not include...

So our town lawyer was away and his partner sent this letter?

Then E&Y writes back that the council has to make that call?

Then the town lawyer says well, yes, they indeed need to make that call?

Then 3 councilman and the mayor get together and fire E&Y without 1/2 the council even being aware of it?

Then they debate the issue at a council meeting even though they had already fired E&Y (more than once)?

What kind of clown circus is this?

Hey, can we hire E&Y as our lawyer? Maybe they couldn't do the books, but looks like they know the law better than our guy does.

Yes I do like a good screwing from an accounting firm. I also like to sniff bus fumes and liked having 2 ugly christmas trees as the gateway to Metuchen's downtown. Get it?

You enjoy a good screwing from an accounting firm?

Umm, ok

I left the 4th post and wanted to make one thing clear. I am and independent voter who has voted for both republican and democratic members of the council over the many years I lived in Metuchen. I represent the not so silent soon to be majority in town. I would never question anyone’s honesty or integrity who basically volunteers for public office. I only care about competence and I don’t see a lot of it going now. If a party change proves to be the solution then I am all for it. Every single person from the mayor to the council chose to be there. I would never say I could do a better job unless I was willing to run for office. But…if someone puts themselves out there and they do not show they are competant then I have a right to say so since my tax payments are involved. Both sides can say what they want but the reality proved that someone does not know how to do a job that an average freshman accounting student could do and made a huge error.. And as for the tree situation….this is a huge waste of tax payer’s dollars to investigate this and is a joke to our town. Those trees looked horrible and were dangerous to anyone who tried to turn onto 27 from Oak. It was only the arrogance of a particular group or commission that led to this mess with the support of half the council and the mayor. And one last thing….the letter to E&Y was very sweet. I know I enjoy a good screwing from an accounting firm just like anyone else. I would be willing to kick in a few extra bucks in my taxes so we can settle the bill with them. Thank you E&Y for the wonderful job you did hiding all of our sins for the last 15 years. Maybe they can supervise the contest for Miss Merry Christmas next year. Something tells me that a chimp on Xanax will win

awwww, but that would get in the way of the show...

I love open and transparent government. OPRA is a wonderful thing, however, I suggest the fingerpointing stop and the fixing begin.

Our taxes in Metuchen are very reasonable. Especially with the services we pay for. Metuchen runs a tight ship.

More tree talk to get everyone to look away from the mess of the Borough finances. Can't wait to see the hole in the 2009 budget created by the Emergency Aid from NJ to patch the mess. Watch the taxes rise, rise, rise...

Trees will grow back. Will my tax dollars????

BS, that is a lie.

Was caught with trees in his backyard. They have pictures. They have the tress service guys saying it was strange request since they usually chip down any trees they cut down.

This guy wanted to use as a Christmas tree. Pathetic.

I guess when citizens talk about real issues in town and how our local government is actually run, maybe some don't want those issues talked about, so they start talking about trees.

You really should stop spreading that rumor. A tree service hired by the Park Association cut the trees down as part of a plan that had always included planting new shade trees further back from the road. No one was ever going to use those two crappy spruces for holiday decorating. I know for a fact there are no photos of the trees "in the guys backyards."

Seems to me the best way to get a new CFO, Attorney and Administrator would be to get another new Councilman. Time for Dyas to go. Now we've got his Shade Tree debacle, behind the scenes decisions to fire the Borough auditor and major accounting errors on his watch as Council President. What more proof do we need?

It seems the more new blood we get in, the more we learn and get access to. Will and Chris started with getting more dialog, access to documents and meetings on the web. Justin dove straight in to the deep end of our internal problems and look what's coming up. I don't care if these guys are Democrats, Republicans, Whigs or Jeffersonians. They are doing good work and we need to boot Dyas so they can lead the town.

They only needed to be replaced when the two guys cut them down so they could use as Christmas trees. Heard there are police photos of the trees in the guys backyards.

Sounds to me like Metuchen needs a new CFO, a new attorney and a new administrator....ASAP!
These are OUR tax dollars being mis-apppropriated and wasted on investigating 2 trees that NEEDED to be replaced.
I am appreciative of these issues being brought out of the "closed" meetings and being discussed here.
Thank you Metuchen Matters!

So let's get some "fresh eyes" on the show.

Why get anything correct? Would ruin our whole spin. There goes the show...

Metuchen isn't a township, it's a borough. If we're going to pick on the borough administrator, let's at least get his title correct.

Exactly right. This error and possibly others were made by the CFO with oversight of the Township manager. The auditor is after the fact.

Unfortunately the $5,000 they saved on the auditor has since been wasted on posturing over two trees that were going to be replaced all along.

So E&Y was fired before the republicans even knew about it? Hahaha, yeah, things have changed in Metuchen.

Municipal accounting is straight forward as well as auditing municipal accounting. All it takes is for both parties to employ someone who cares about the process. There is ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for this type of error. Maybe we made the municipal building a little too comfortable for our employees? Bookkeeping is not rocket science it just takes accuracy and discipline. It is the auditor’s job to find inaccuracies in the bookkeeping process and this one should have jumped out and punched him in the groin! If Metuchen were a business I would like to see them explain that one to their bank and maybe the IRS. That note would be called in quicker than crap goes through a goose. I don’t blame the accountant/bookkeeper or the auditor…I blame who is in charge. If Metuchen were my business there would be some big changes. Let’s hope this is not allowed to happen again.

One other thing….a $624,000 error is a big deal…but what about all the $5,000, $10,000, and $20,000 errors that fell through the cracks over the last 15 years and were appropriated somewhere else in the bookkeeping process? Something tells me they add up to a lot more that $624,000. I hope I am wrong!!!

I think the auditor had an attitude because it seemed like we were trying to blame him for our internal control problems. The auditor checks the books, they don't keep the books. It's the old "kill the messenger" cliche, exemplified.

If municipal accounting is so straight forward, how come we had that $624,000 mistake that no one could explain in anything resembling simple, straight forward terms?

If five and out is good for professionals, does that mean we can get rid of the borough attorney? Seems like he's been around forever.

Please, give me a break.

We all saw the arrogance of the E&Y auditor on full display at the council meeting a few months back. Professional? Hardly.

The look of disgust on Councilman Morrisons face was priceless.

I think Councilman Cammaranno is right, 5 and out sounds good.

If Pete "sees no reason to go beyond five" why had E&Y been here for 15 years? What changed his and the councils mind?

The comment that the overpayment had been on E&Y's watch is out of line. Auditors are not taking care of the day to day operations of Metuchen.

Of course, you will never hear anything from E&Y, because they are professional and won't talk about client issues in public. Too bad, I would love to hear their head auditor talk frankly concerning our years as their client.

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Recent Comments

  • Anonymous: It's not small to the members of the Park Association. read more
  • Anonymous: I agree. We should focus on the big issues like read more
  • Anonymous: They want use to talk about the trees so we read more
  • Anonymous: Seems logical to me. When we had a tree cut read more
  • Anonymous: How come the cops didn't take possession of the evidence? read more
  • Anonymous: They were only put in the park after he got read more
  • Anonymous: You stop making stuff up. No one told the tree read more
  • Anonymous: That is a lie, they were in his backyard. He read more
  • Anonymous: As Dr. Primich previously posted on MM, the trees were read more
  • Anonymous: No lobbying jobs from the municipal accountants' association for you! read more

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