Ty Vitale got a nasty surprise in his morning mail a few days ago — a cease and desist letter from the law firm Upton and Hatfield telling Mr. Vitale to stop contacting the auditing firm of Plodzik & Sanderson, P.A.
Plodzik & Sanderson, P.A does the financial audits for the Timberlane Regional School District, and the Town of Plaistow. Ty Vitale is a Plaistow candidate for the Timberlane Regional School Board. He also put himself forward for Timberlane’s Budget Committee.
Mr. Vitale was a CPA by background so he knows his way around audits and financial statements. He’s been trying to get ten years’ past audits for the Timberlane district directly from the auditors. (Only 2015 and 2016 are posted on Timberlane’s public website.)
Mr. Vitale has also been complaining to state and regulatory authorities concerning what he believes to be issues around the last few audits in Plaistow. He is also doing his best to alert state authorities to the intent statements on ballots in Timberlane and Plaistow. It is widely believed that intent statements should not be on town or district ballots.
Mr. Vitale kindly wrote a summary of his complaints for this blog:
1 – Complaint dated December 22 2016 regarding Excessive Government Advocacy by the Town of Plaistow. This complaint resulted in a letter from Plaistow’s Town Counsel, Sumner Kalman, to Sean Fitzgerald, Town Manager, stating that Sumner had been advising a succession of Town Managers for decades that “intent” sections on Warrant Articles are illegal. It also resulted in a letter from the AG’s office confirming that intent statements are not permitted by RSA. Unfortunately, despite legal counsel and the AG’s letter, Plaistow’s 2017 Warrant still has intent statements on the ballot (Z-17-01, Z-17-02, Z-17-03, Z-17-04, Z-17-05, Z-17-06), as well as other prohibited statements such as “these funds are in the Capital Improvement Program as approved by the Planning Board” (P-17-04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19). Not including the Operating Budget and Collective Bargaining Agreement articles, total value of all articles placed on the 2017 Warrant by the Board of Selectmen equal $1.1MM.
On November 29 2016, before making the complaint, I laid out my case regarding the legality of the Intent Sections through an email to the Plaistow Board of Selectmen, in that email I strongly urged them to seek legal counsel before proceeding with the use Town resources in the creation of intent statements. Through right to know requests, I discovered that the DRA had been advising the Town to seek legal counsel. The DRA also provided me with emails dated January 2016, whereby other concerned Plaistow Citizens were questioning the intent statement’s bias. One concerned Citizen, who introduced himself as a member of Plaistow’s budget committee, mentioned that the wording seemed biased and wrote “they are definitely worded to elicit a vote in favor of the board of selectman and town managers wishes”. The same concerned Citizen wrote “In my view, P-16-02 & P16-14 are sales pitches”. P-16-02 was a Bond Issue for ‘Public Safety Complex Expansion Bond Issue’ of $8.5MM which passed by 10 votes after a recount, construction of the Complex is now near completion. Article P-16-14 was for ‘Highway Department Front End Loader Replacement’ for $120k – The board of selectmen instead voted (3-2) on May 23 2016 to purchase one for $152k.
2 – Complaint dated January 7 2017 against the Town of Plaistow regarding Hiring practices and various elected positions. The Attorney General’s office did not respond acknowledge this complaint in writing.
3 – Complaint dated February 13 2017 against the Town of Plaistow and/or Plodzik & Sanderson, PA regarding budgeting practices and the 2015 Audit release. This complaint was sent to the NH Attorney General’s office and the Board of CPA’s. On February 15 2017 the Town’s Finance Director sent me the completed Audit which was dated February 10 2017. I filed an addendum to the complaint to the Board of CPA’s via email for subsequent events. The Attorney General’s office did not acknowledge this complaint in writing. The Board of CPA’s did respond and are going to review when the Board meets next in April.
4 – Complaint dated February 16 2017 against the Timberlane School District, Town of Plaistow, James O’Shaughnessy, Sumner Kalman, Steve Ranlett and Sean Fitzgerald with regards to Intent Statements on Warrant Articles and Excessive Government Advocacy. The NH Attorney General’s office acknowledged receipt of this complaint. Unfortunately, Timberlane’s 2017 Warrant still has intent statements on its $250k ‘Capital Reserve Fund’ request (Article 3) and ‘Three Year Collective Bargaining Agreement’ (Timberlane Support Staff Union) (Article 4).
5 – Complaint dated March 9 2017 against the Town of Plaistow regarding the timing of the Town’s Annual Reports and the publication of their Audited Financial Statements. This complaint was made to the Attorney General’s office only; my intent is to forward it to the NH Board of CPA’s with regards to Vashon Culkay & Company, PC (predecessor auditor) and Plodzik & Sanderson, PA’s (successor auditor) work contained in the reports. The Attorney General’s Office has not yet acknowledged receipt of this complaint.
You can read the Cease and Desist letter here: Upton and Hatfield (2)
Plaistow, Mr. Vitale deserves your vote. His concerns should be reasonably addressed and he should be applauded for the determination he has demonstrated in trying to understand and probe audits, annual reports and state law with respect to ballots.