Special audit of county finds no one stole any money


May 18, 2017
SSIPEE — Back in August 2015 Carroll County Delegation passed a 19-point resolution of "no confidence" against the Carroll County Commissioners. The 12-2 vote accused Commissioners David Sorensen and David Babson of, among other things, withholding financial information from the delegation and the public and having no control over their finance office.

Sorensen chose not to seek re-election last fall, leaving Babson as the sole remaining commissioner who also served during times of the county's financial disaster to continue to fend off attacks. Babson has not forgotten the "no confidence" vote and now has no interest in working the with the delegation to bring a record of the truth to the public.

The financial woes of the county have been reported extensively in this newspaper, and others, over the past several years. It would take writing a book to summarize everything into a digestible format the public could understand. And that's exactly what one member of the delegation, NH Rep. Ed Comeau (R-Brookfield), thinks should happen and he gained two commissioner's support for the idea at the May 3 commissioner's meeting. He suggested a bound book be created that can be kept at libraries and town halls detailing a timeline looking back over the past seven years at the county financial workings.

"We should be honest and tell the public what happened. I don't like the fact that the public is going to walk around questioning what ever happened at Carroll County. That shouldn't hang over us. As elected officials, we should clear the air, air the truth, and move on," said Comeau.

County Commissioner Mark Hounsell (R-Conway) offered to help and co-author the history. He said that "lessons learned" can be forgotten if they aren't recorded for future generations and that it is administratively correct and politically wise. "I'm having nothing to do with it. I got a vote of no confidence. They didn't want me then and they're not going to hear what I have to say now. So, I'm out of it and won't even vote on it," said Babson.

Hounsell said the financial fiasco has let hurt feelings and suggested the report could actually serve to "ease the pain that still remains" and that Babson should not have to carry the burden of the insults.

After a few attempts at making a motion forming an ad hoc committee to write the history, the commissioners decided to leave it up to the county delegation to take the lead. The delegation, comprised of the county's 15 state representatives meets next Monday, May 22 at 9 a.m. in Ossipee for the quarterly budget review. Hounsell and Comeau are expected to bring up the book creation at the meeting to get delegation support.

Earlier in the May 3 meeting, Cheryle Burke from the County's auditing firm, Melanson & Heath, presented a summary of the 1,000-page special auditing work that firm just completed.

As a compromise, the firm was asked to look at 20 specific areas of the County's financial management, rather than conduct a forensic audit that was being pushed for by the delegation. The former cost about $20,000 while the latter would have cost at least $250,000.

The special audit looked at what happened to the $2 million leftover bond money from the new nursing home construction, explored special accounts and credit card transactions, critiqued the process for the pellet boiler installation and the demolition of two wings of the old nursing home. The overarching conclusion is that the firm found no evidence that anyone stole any money.

The report as well as supporting financial documents has all been uploaded to the county website at www.carrollcountynh.net for public review. Burke is expected to attend the May 22 delegation meeting to make a similar presentation and answer that group's questions.

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