‘Discrepancies’ found as Ludlow audit continues

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff
Posted April 28, 2010, at 8:01 p.m.

LUDLOW, Maine — State Auditor Neria Douglass said Wednesday that she is still combing through the town’s paperwork as part of an audit of financial records for fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Douglass said from Augusta that she could not pinpoint exactly when the audit will be finished but hoped to have it wrapped up in a few weeks.

The office began auditing the records in February after receiving a complaint and verifying that the state had not received several years’ worth of municipal audits from the town.

Ludlow, an Aroostook County town of about 420 people, is seven miles west of Houlton.

Residents were officially alerted to the state action during a town meeting in February, just after Marybeth Foley, Ludlow’s town manager for the past 14 years, was suspended without pay.

At the special town meeting, the Board of Selectmen told residents that Foley’s suspension came after selectmen asked her for financial records and a copy of the town’s audit. Foley never gave the board the material it asked for, and she was subsequently suspended without pay.

During the special meeting, residents learned that the last audit of town finances was done five years ago. Douglass said state law requires that a town conduct an audit each year. The penalty for failure to do an audit is $100.

After Douglass received the complaint and verified that the state was missing some of Ludlow’s municipal audits, Douglass served a subpoena for financial records with Detective Dan Robertson of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department and Detective Stephanie Fields Beaulieu of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Officials in Douglass’ office are looking at past motor vehicle excise tax records, property tax payments and more, she said Wednesday.

Douglass said she has found “discrepancies” in the financial records, but would not give details.

“I really want to hold off on elaborating until I present the town with my findings,” she said. “I plan to make myself available to the town to answer any questions that they might have. It is then up to the town to decide what to do next.”

Auditing the records “has been a slow process,” she said, as her office has had to sort through stacks of records.

Along with the audit conducted by the state, the board has authorized a private audit on behalf of the town to look at Ludlow’s finances for the past two years. The town office has been closed since Foley was suspended.

During this year’s town meeting, there likely will be an article asking residents if they want to increase the number of members on the Board of Selectmen from three to five. The move is an attempt to provide for better oversight.

Voters also likely will consider an amendment to prohibit any person who is profiting directly or indirectly from the town, other than through administrative fees, from holding elected or appointed office in the town.

The town meeting will be held after the audit is conducted.

Last month, the Board of Selectmen in Orient decided to replace Foley as its assessing agent. Foley lives in Orient.

Town Clerk Alicia Silkey said last month that the decision had “nothing to do” with the situation involving Foley in Ludlow.

Orient, an Aroostook County town of about 244 people, is on U.S. Route 1, just north of Danforth.

Foley has not responded to request for comment.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/04/28/news/lsquodiscrepanciesrsquo-found-as-ludlow-audit-continues/ printed on November 25, 2014