by Angela Chagnon
This is the second article in a two part series. Part 1 is: State Auditor Tom Salmon: “Society has an accountability problem”
In light of the growing number of embezzlements, fraud, and just plain bad management practices taking place in Vermont, it’s obvious that something needs to be done to curb the trend.
State Auditor Tom Salmon submitted a bill to the legislature earlier this year that proposed to allow the auditor’s office to send out a questionnaire “regarding management and internal control of state funds to Vermont counties, municipalities, school supervisory unions, school districts, nonprofit organizations, and other persons that receive those funds”.
The bill would have required the recipient of the questionnaire to sign and return the document to the auditor’s office, thus establishing a direct link “to the flow of cash”, according to Salmon.
Along with providing accountability, the bill also would have required the state auditor create and maintain a “handbook designed to aid those persons with the requirements and questions within the questionnaire” and to offer 3-hour anti-embezzlement classes to help employers and municipalities prevent and detect embezzlement.
The bill was submitted to the House Government Operations Committee, chaired by Rep. Donna Sweaney (D-Windsor), but had not been taken up. When asked why, Sweaney replied that the bill was submitted late in the session, after “crossover”, and the Senate wouldn’t take bills after that point.
“Ours is the workhouse committee,” she said. “We get about eighty to one hundred bills a session.”
She said the committee had been tasked with various other high-priority bills regarding public records, open meetings, and charter changes to towns. Some testimony had been taken from Auditor Salmon on his bill, but time constraints prevented it from being taken further.
However, the committee did ask the League of Cities and Towns to work with the Auditor to create a program for towns to raise fraud awareness. This was done and Sweaney said that the program had been a success: “It made an impact on the people who went to the training.”
Sweaney believes the bill will help prevent fraud and embezzlement by “raising awareness” of the problem, but “it’s always an issue to mandate things,” she contends. “Towns don’t always have money to send people to the meetings.”
Sweaney confirmed that the bill will be taken up in January.
“I think he has a good point,” Sweaney says of Salmon’s bill. “It’s someone taking the reins and saying something needs to be done about this.”