Boy Scout Troop Continues Leaders Challenge

As the colors were presented, Richard Riendeau’s wife Vicki with her sons Robby and Cliff , as the program in honor of Richard began at BAE Systems

The eleventh month, the eleventh day, and the eleventh hour celebration unfolded at BAE Systems in Nashua Tuesday morning in a very emotional way.  Richard Riendeau, an employee of BAE Systems who died unexpectedly in September, had issued a challenge to Boy Scout Troop 266 in Windham, of which he was their Scout Master, the day before he passed away to prepare gift packages for veterans serving overseas.

As the scouts accepted the challenge, Richard’s wife Vicki contacted BAE Systems to see if they could help the boys fulfilling their Scoutmaster’s challenge.  Richard previously volunteered with Operation Noble Cause, an employee-based effort to support our war-fighters and their families.  This is not a BAE Systems directed activity, but BAE Systems employees participate in Operation Noble Cause on a strictly volunteer basis, and on their own time.  Employee volunteer efforts and employee monetary and material contributions go to those Military Support Organizations, which are IRS-recognized charitable organizations.

Gerry Finnegan, BAE Systems’ Operation Noble Cause champion, introduced the event and asked that Troop 266 post the colors, following which he gave a brief history of how Veterans Day started.  Tom Fitzpatrick of BAE introduced Paul Moore, who with his family operates the MooreMart Foundation that sends packages to troops serving in foreign conflicts.  MooreMart, working with Operation Noble Cause, will package and deliver the stockings filled with items for our soldiers that Troop 266 collected.

There were very few dry eyes in the room as the scouts assembled the 75 holiday stockings to be sent in front of the room, shook hands with Judge Moore and received a commendation from BAE.  Finnegan presented a plague to the troops for their service and to Vicki Riendeau in honor of her late husband’s work with Operation Noble Cause.  Vicki spoke of Richard’s devotion to his family, his country, the scouts and to taking care of our veterans, accompanied by her two sons, Richard Clifford “Cliff” and Robert David “Robby”, both members of Troop 266 and both planning to follow their dad’s footsteps with careers in the military to serve their country.  As the program closed, members of BAE on hand formed a line to wish Vicki and her family well and to remember Rick and all his great work. 

Troop 266 posed with their collected gifts with Vicki Riendeau and Judge Paul Moore of the MooreMart Foundation

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Ex-Treasurer Turns to Press After Selectmen Won’t Let Him Speak 

by Lynne Ober

In October the Litchfield Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer resigned.  Their primary issue was a $3.5 million dollar disconnect between their checkbook and the town’s financial system and that led to concern that they might be the next Litchfield treasurers with indictments.

“People are saying that we resigned over a laptop or lack of pay,” began Deputy Treasurer Bruce Samuelson, “but that’s not true.  We began to fear for our reputations and to worry that the Attorney General’s {AG] office might indict us next.”

Samuelson served as Litchfield’s Deputy Treasurer, but has a rich financial background.  Not only has Samuelson previously served as an elected Treasurer in another New Hampshire town, but he has 35 years in banking.  He ran a bank in Meredith, New Hampshire, has been an Executive Vice President before that and a Senior Loan Officer.  “I’ve handled FDIC bank audits, internal audits and worked closely on all sorts of financial matters.  In addition, I’m a former selectman.”

Stapleton, who was appointed Treasurer last March after Litchfield’s elected treasurer had been indicted for embezzlement, has been an air traffic controller.  “My attention to detail is superb and I like to dot all the i’s and cross the t’s.  I’m used to digging through details.”

Normally when there is a change of treasurer, an audit can be performed and the outgoing treasurer is available to go over the books with the incoming treasurer. However, in Litchfield there were no books and no outgoing treasurer.  The books and assorted financial records were locked up at the AG’s office and the out-going treasurer was under criminal indictment for embezzlement.

“I had to start from scratch,” said Stapleton.  “I had nothing.  All records for the treasurer were taken and no copies were made or kept in Town Hall.”

Stapleton said that he asked for and got a listing of all checks that had been written since January 1, 2008.  “My thought was that the auditor was working on 2007 and I could safely start with 2008.”

According to Stapleton and Samuelson it took many weeks to track down needed information.  “We never did find one of the checkbooks, but that account was not earning adequate interest and we moved it to another bank where we got 17 percent more interest for the taxpayers.  When we moved it, we got a new checkbook.”

New Hampshire State Statute, RSA 41:29 outlines the responsibilities of the treasurer.  The treasurer is charged as follows:

  • “The town treasurer shall have custody of all moneys belonging to the town …”
  • Treasurers pay out money only upon order of the governing board, which may be selectmen, conservation commission, a heritage commission or a local land use board “or its designated agent” or a recreation or park commission.
  • “The treasurer shall deposit all such moneys.”  The RSA states where the treasurer may deposit the funds.
  • “The town treasurer shall keep in suitable books provided for the purpose a fair and correct account of all sums received into and paid from the town treasury.”
  • “At the close of each fiscal year, the treasurer shall make a report to the town, giving a particular account of all his or her financial transactions during the year and account balances at year end.”
  • The treasurer must also submit all books and vouchers to the auditor.
  • “The treasurer may delegate deposit, investment, record keeping, or reconciliation functions to other town officials or employees provided such delegation is in writing and includes written procedures acceptable to the selectmen, or in the case of a town operating under RSA 37, to the town manager, and is agreeable to all parties involved.  However any such delegation shall only be made to a town official or employee bonded in accordance with RSA 41:6 and rules adopted by the commissioner of revenue administration under RSA 541-A.  Such delegation shall not eliminate the responsibility of the treasurer to comply with all statutory duties required by law.”

As Stapleton and Samuelson pointed out, state law makes the treasurer responsible for reporting balances and therein is the crux of the issue.

According to Stapleton after he had collected the town documents, he and Samuelson began auditing what they had in the bank and comparing it to reports given to them from the town’s financial system.  “There was a $3.5 million disconnect between what was in the bank and what was listed in the town’s financial system.”

In July Stapleton met with Board of Selectman Chairman, Frank Byron, and Selectman’s Assistant, Howard Dilworth to discuss his findings and his concerns.

“We had been doing everything by hand on the treasurer side.  I had Bruce [Samuelson] audit my findings.  I wanted to be sure I hadn’t made a financial error in my calculations that was responsible for the $3.5 million discrepancy between the bank and town systems,” said Stapleton.  “Bruce came to the same conclusion that I had reached – there was a large discrepancy.”

Stapleton ultimately met with selectmen and asked for a laptop.  Selectmen provided an older, unused laptop from the police department and according to Stapleton, Selectman George Lambert downloaded a free software suite called Open Office.

Selectmen also decided to close the selectmen’s office in Town Hall on Wednesdays in order to allow Dilworth to catch up with some pending work and to work with the treasurers on a complete reconciliation of the books. Stapleton said that this reconciliation has never been done.

“The financial situation in town does not seem to be a selectmen priority.  They only got worried after Joe told them they were going to run out of money before the end of the year,” said Samuelson.

One of the ongoing issues was the procedure for handling checks.  Despite the clear direction about who controls the procedures for money handling found in the RSA, the two treasurers did not feel they were getting adequate notice nor did they feel that they knew what monies were coming into town.  They both spoke about the process and the lack of what they saw as adequate financial controls.  “Are checks missing?” asked Stapleton.  “I just don’t know.  I do know that selectmen are charged in RSA 41:9 to ensure that all funds paid to the town shall be remitted to the treasure at least on a weekly basis or daily if the funds are more than $500.”

RSA 41:9 reads, “The selectmen shall be responsible for establishing procedures to ensure that all funds paid to the town from any department shall be remitted to the treasurer at least on a weekly basis or daily whenever such funds total $500 or more.”

Stapleton recounted one instance when $152,000 worth of checks had been received, but not deposited.  Those funds had not been handled in accordance with state law so Stapleton contacted Chairman Byron about this issue. “152,000 is more than $500 and some of the checks had been held much longer than a week,” said Stapleton.  “The town needs to garner as much interest on its money as it can.  If money is not deposited not only does it not gain interest, but everyone who handles those funds or is responsible for those funds is at risk.  Checks not deposited in a timely manner can also be mislaid.”

According to Dilworth, a new procedure for processing checks has been established.  A second procedure is being developed but is currently on hold.

“We are not the town’s bookkeepers by state statute,” said Stapleton.  “We cannot have the checkbook.  We sign approved checks and produce reports, but we are not the keepers of all financial data.  State law is very clear on developing checks and balances.”

As Stapleton and Samuelson struggled to reconcile the books, ensure that town monies were earning appropriate interest and that all monies were deposited, they became more fearful for their own situation.  Samuelson noted that they felt that they were personally at risk and worried about being indicted because there was a large gap in accounted for monies.  “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Samuelson.  “We wanted to help, but we didn’t want to lose our own reputations in the process.”

Finally, they decided jointly that the best course of action was to resign.  “It wasn’t about a laptop or about our pay.  It was about unreconciled books.  Weeks had passed since selectmen told Dilwoth to sit with us and reconcile the books,” said Stapleton. “Some days we’d be at Town Hall all day working in a conference room on this and Dilworth wouldn’t sit and work with us.  We just couldn’t do it alone,” concluded Samuelson.  “We know something is wrong, but we don’t know where and we did everything we could to discover the error, but even with my extensive background in banking and auditing, we just didn’t have enough documentation to do that.  Most of the documents remain locked up with the AG.”

Selectmen have appointed an interim treasurer as they discuss how to go forward on a long term basis.

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Daisy Troop Proves That Kids Can Make a Difference Too!

The girls playing in the leaves before they begin their project.

Local Daisy Troop 900 participated in USA Weekend Make a Difference Day on October 25.  The girls wanted to help someone in need.  After many discussions, they decided to help with a yard cleanup.  They gathered together on Saturday and cleaned the yard of a local elderly couple.

“We have an amazing group of young girls.  They took their rakes and immediately started their project.  Without much instruction, they had the front yard cleaned up in less than one hour!” said co-leaders Jane Hodgdon and Rhonda Boudreau.  The girls will earn their Rose-colored petal, which stands for ‘Make the World a Better Place.’  Not only did the girls earn a petal with the work they did, they also learned that with teamwork they can do anything.  They learned that doing things for others makes you feel good inside, and helps the community too!  They also learned that even though they are small they can make a big difference in the lives of others.

They would like to thank Ross and Marilyn McDonald for allowing them to use their yard for their Make a Difference Day project, and for the delicious cookies!  We would also like to thank Friend Lumber for donating the leaf collection bags for the project, and also the parent volunteers that helped with the cleanup.

The girls will continue to serve the community throughout the upcoming holiday season by participating in the annual Hudson Fish and Game Thanksgiving Dinner.

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