LACONIA — County Convention Chairperson Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) asked Belknap County Commissioners last night to make a so-called management letter which accompanied a financial audit report the commission recently received to be made public.
Worsman made the request following a review of the audit report by a representative of Melanson Heath and Company at a commission meeting last night at a which excerpts from the management letter were read and discussed briefly by commissioners.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that it was her understanding that the letter should not be distributed publicly but would check to see if she was correct.
Worsman requested that the letter be available on the commission's web site along with the audit report itself, which commissioners said would be posted online.
The Registry of Deeds office was mentioned in the management letter, which noted that internal monitoring of the office's procedures had addressed some of the concerns raised in an audit report two years and that there were significant improvements.
But there was concern raised in the letter that the general ledger and accounts payable ledger of the office didn't agree.
The commission brought legal action against elected Registrar Barbara Luther two years ago in an attempt to have her comply with recommendations made in a management letter which criticized three specific "material weaknesses" in the record keeping or handling of public funds.
The criticisms included the fact that at times a single individual controlled "all phases of a particular (financial) activity" and certain record keeping processes. The management letter did not allege or imply any actual wrongdoing by the registry staff but dealt with improving procedures in keeping with modern accounting standards.
When the parties and registrar could not agree on system changes to address the criticisms, the commissioners brought the lawsuit in October of 2011 asking the Belknap County Superior Court to "order the (Registry) to conform with the recommendations of the management letter."
Extensive negotiations ensued in August of 2012 and a statement released to the media from the county announced that the agreement between the two parties had been reached. The agreement allowed the existing checking account used by the Register of Deeds to be continued and requires that any checks or withdrawals from that account be signed by the Register of Deeds and the Belknap County Treasurer.
It also established procedures for the daily handling of payments and operations at the office.
Commissioners said at the time that the settlement was consistent with recommended best accounting practices and removed a negative comment from the county audit.
Luther, who was represented by attorney Philip McLaughlin in the negotiations, has since asked the county to pay the $ 5,500 legal bill she incurred, but commissioners have so far refused to pay, despite the County Convention including a line item in the budget that it passed this year for $5,500 to pay Luther's bill.
Worsman also requested, speaking, she said, as a taxpayer of Meredith, that the commissioners see that no one who was an employee of the county be a part of the team negotiating contracts with representatives of the unions representing county employees.
She said that the contracts which are negotiated also affect those who are not union members and that she didn't think any of those doing the negotiating for the county should be employees of the county because they would be in a position to benefit from the contracts they negotiated.
County Commission Chairman John Thomas said that the request was ''contrary to whatever I've seen'' and noted that department heads, who are paid by the county, have routinely been part of contract negotiations on behalf of the county.