Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Audit: Scheduled Presentation

Oriental's new auditor will present the audit to the Town Board at Tuesday's public meeting.

This appears to be the only important or significant topic on Tuesday's agenda. It may seem like a boring subject, but represents an opportunity for the public to hear a fresh analysis of the town's financial management strengths and weaknesses. A previous post offers my own assessment of the twenty-three items to which our auditor called particular attention.

One thing to bear in mind is that the auditing contract is not just a bilateral agreement between the town and the auditor. The North Carolina Local Government Commission (LGC) is also a party, in that the contract must be submitted to the LGC Secretary for approval. The LGC must also approve the audit, including completion of required corrections, before they will approve final invoices for payment. LGC provides a form for the contract and prescribes procedures for the audit.

This year, the LGC sent the Town of Oriental at least three letters complaining about the audit by Seiler, Zachman & Associates, PA for fiscal year ended June 30, 2008. Two of those letters complained the report was late and asked for the town's plan to correct this. The third letter identified five deficiencies requiring correction, including two items that had to be corrected before LGC would approve the final invoice. Of the five items, two related to the Water Fund.

In addition, almost four months after the end of the fiscal year, the auditing firm forwarded to the Town of Oriental five pages of "Adjusting Journal Entries." The adjustments included a credit for $3,503.48 annotated "Adjust cash to reconciled balance." Apparently this was to account for an unexplained discrepancy in cash on hand as of the date of the audit.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Whitewash Defined

Definitions of whitewash on the Web: (see "Audit III")

  • cover up a misdemeanor, fault, or error; "Let's not whitewash the crimes of Stalin"; "She tried to gloss over her mistakes"
  • a defeat in which the losing person or team fails to score
  • cover with whitewash; "whitewash walls"
  • wash consisting of lime and size in water; used for whitening walls and other surfaces
  • exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data
  • a specious or deceptive clearing that attempts to gloss over failings and defects

Monday, December 28, 2009

Health Care

I was born in an Osteopathic hospital in 1937. At the time, it was the least expensive option available; an important consideration for working class parents during the Great Depression.

During more than seven decades since then, I have received medical care through most of the possible program structures:
a: No insurance - just pay the doctor;
b: Provided directly by the government - in my case, at military treatment facilities;
c: Provided by employer through private health insurance;
d: Single payer government paid health insurance - CHAMPUS, TRICARE, MEDICARE.

The only possible program I have never participated in is private purchase of private health insurance. One of our sons has done that.

It is great that both houses of Congress have passed health care reform bills. May they be quickly reconciled. We owe it to ourselves and our posterity to provide universal health care benefits. We are the only advanced country that doesn't.

Universal health care systems in other countries all result in better health outcomes at lower cost to society. I would have preferred either a straight system of government health care like that in Great Britain and the United States Veteran's Administration or a single-payer system like Medicare. But something is better than nothing. Once we get a system in place, we can make it better.

Next we need a real public option.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Year's Eve and Tourism

Over the past year or so we have heard a lot in Oriental about tourism and how we have to promote it. Tourism, it is said, either will be or has been the economic salvation of the town.

When we arrived here, Oriental had for a number of years been a tourist destination on New Year's Eve. Families would come from all over Eastern North Carolina to see the running of the dragon about 8:00 p.m. Many adults of all ages would come for the first running of the dragon, have dinner at a local restaurant, reappear for the second running about 11:00 and stay for the lowering of the Croaker from the mast of a local sailboat at Town Dock.

It was a fun evening, in keeping with Oriental's quirky character.

A year ago at midnight, a crowd gathered at Town Dock expecting the Croaker to appear. They were disappointed.

This year, it seems there will be no 11:00 running of the dragon. There will probably be more disappointed visitors to Oriental.

Preparing and organizing events like the Croaker drop and Dragon Run involve a lot of planning, recruiting and coordinating for something that lasts only a few minutes. Those who enjoy the fun should make sure to thank the organizers and volunteer to help.

The event organizers might give some thought to establishing a permanent entity to be in charge and make sure such attractions continue in the future.

Friday, December 25, 2009


The night before Christmas, we always searched through sock drawers for the biggest socks we could find. We nailed them to the mantle over the fireplace, while our grandfather made his annual prediction that this time Santa would fill the stockings with a bundle of switches, or perhaps a lump of coal.

We worried about the fire in the fireplace and made sure it was put out before we went to bed. After all, Santa had to come down that chimney.

The next morning, after we saw what Santa left under the tree, we would inspect the stockings. They would always be filled with oranges, bananas, various nuts still in their shells: walnuts, hazel nuts, Brazil nuts (though that isn't what we called them), almonds and ribbon candy. I don't ever remember eating ribbon candy except at Christmas.

By the time we emptied the stockings, we no longer worried about the fireplace.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Childhood memories, even of important events like Christmas are remarkably selective. Sometimes the clearest memories are of the smallest events.

We always visited my grandparents in rural Holmes County, Mississippi. They lived in a rambling house made of rough-sawn, unpainted cypress. I thought of it as the house that jack built, because of the add-ons it had accumulated over the years.

The house was nestled among enormous native trees, in the alluvial plain of the Yazoo River. Just a few miles east was the beginning of the hill country. We would take a truck to the hills, where my grandfather picked out a suitable cedar tree (they grew like weeds on the hillsides) and had it cut down. Back at the house, we would saw the bottom of the trunk square, nail on a couple of supporting boards, stand it up and start decorating.

We made varicolored chains out of construction paper, strung popcorn and cranberries together with needle and thread, and hung Christmas tree lights, foil icicles and a few antique glass ball ornaments.

The real work of Christmas took place in the kitchen. On Christmas day, my grandmother and a servant cooked turkey, ham (slaughtered and smoked in October), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cornbread dressing (for the turkey), and a passel of other vegetables on an enormous wood-fired cook stove.

The piece de resistance was prepared by my great aunts, who had come up from Yazoo City. Late in the morning, they disappeared into a room and closed the door. When I asked what they were doing, Aunt Mary informed me they were making Ambrosia.

My grandmother and my great aunts grew up on a plantation along the Yazoo River. It had a suitably grandiose name, which I don't remember. But the young ladies of the family were sent off to finishing school. Aunt Mary and Aunt 'Stelle, in particular, had an elegant, soft pronunciation that has largely disappeared from the South, along with the graceful cursive writing they used.

When Aunt Mary said "ambrosia," the syllables flowed like honey. It sounded like the most delicious, heavenly food that one could imagine. It was easy to understand why, when making such a marvelous food, it was necessary to do so in secret, with the doors closed. Otherwise the magical recipe might escape.

After the rest of the food was on the table, a weight sufficient that the table's legs creaked and groaned, my great aunts emerged from their secret workshop and placed a dish of ambrosia at each place.

Imagine my surprise that such an elegant name referred to fruit salad sprinkled with coconut.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Service during Christmas

Sometimes there is no explanation for good fortune.

I served in the US Navy twenty-five years, including service on five ships deployed for as long as nine months at a time. In all that time, it always worked out that I was at home or in my home port for Christmas. I didn't plan it that way - it just happened. I know how fortunate this was for me and my family.

Others in our military service aren't so fortunate.

Please remember our deployed military servicemen and women and the families from whom they are separated this holiday season.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Texting, e-mail, Government Employees

Anyone interested in issues surrounding electronic communication by government employees might want to follow a new Supreme Court case.

The United States Supreme Court agreed last Monday to decide whether the Ontario, California police department violated the constitutional privacy rights of a police sergeant on the town's SWAT team when it inspected personal text messages sent and received on a town-owned pager. This is a Fourth Amendment case expected to hinge on whether the sergeant should have had a "reasonable expectation" of privacy.

There is a long and somewhat confusing history of Supreme court decisions on Fourth Amendment issues relating to government workplaces and expectation of privacy. This appears to be the first time the Court has addressed privacy of government employees in the context of data networks.

North Carolina law and regulations are clear on this point. Government employees using government owned equipment for private communications have no expectation of privacy. This principle is similar to that of any other employee using equipment owned by the employer. It means that supervisors get to read your e-mail.

If the Court decides that the sergeant had no "reasonable expectation" of privacy, does that mean his text messages become public records? No. That's a completely separate issue. In North Carolina, under Department of Cultural Resources E-mail Policy (Revised July 2009), if an e-mail message is not created or received as part of the business of government, it is considered non-record material. This includes personal messages, defined as those received from family, friends or work colleagues which have nothing to do with conducting daily government business.

A third issue with e-mails is whether exchanging e-mails between or among public elected or appointed officials violates open meetings law. Under NC law, it is a violation for a quorum of a governing body to discuss public business by electronic means if it is a simultaneous communication, such as a conference phone call. This would seem to apply to a chat room, for example, but not necessarily to sequential telephone conversations or sequential e-mails. Other states have far more restrictive laws. In at least one state, it is a violation to have a simultaneous communication among the majority of a quorum. If this principle were applied to Oriental, that would mean that no Town Commissioner could discuss town business with any other commissioner except in an open meeting. I can't imagine a scheme better calculated to bring government to a screaming halt.

I have always assumed that any e-mails I sent or received concerning town business qualified as public records. Accordingly, I established an e-mail account that I used for town business, separate from my private e-mail account that I had used for more than a decade. I recommended to the town manager more than three years ago that the town establish e-mail accounts for elected and appointed officials. I thought this would improve the management of e-mails that qualified as public records. Even doing this wouldn't prevent the accounts being used for personal messages, spam or unsolicited e-mails, but would allow coordinated administration and preservation of this category of public records. No action was taken on my suggestion until the new manager arrived.

I have now forwarded all of my e-mails concerning town business to my former account: I no longer have access to the account. It is now the town's responsibility to determine which of the e-mails is a public record and to manage their retention and disposition.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Valentina Lisitsa

What an afternoon of music!

We are certainly fortunate in Oriental to have a venue like the Old Theater and a Music Society able to recruit top notch musicians like Valentina Lisitsa. It probably helps that she has made her home in North Carolina.

This afternoon she announced each piece, giving a short lecture tinged with humor and insight. Then she sat at the piano, wearing high heeled pumps and played away, her long fingers moving so fast they seemed a blur, but extracting every last ounce of passion from the music.

The highlight: a magic performance of Rachmaninoff's Concerto Number 3 for Piano and Orchestra, without the orchestra. She explained that it would sound fine without the orchestra, since the orchestra "just hums along," anyhow. She invited the audience to hum along, too, if they felt the need. No one did.

When she comes back to Oriental, don't miss the chance to hear her perform.

Spirit of Christmas Parade

Four years ago, with our boat laid up in Portsmouth Virginia awaiting a rebuilt transmission, my wife and I drove into Oriental to find a parade about to start. We found a vantage point at the corner of Broad and Hodges and thoroughly enjoyed the show.

We spent the night at Oriental Inn, had coffee and bagels at The Bean the next morning and met many residents. By the time we left to drive back to our boat, we knew we would spend more time in Oriental. We're still here.

Yesterday evening was our fifth Spirit of Christmas parade. The crowd was much smaller than in the past, and the parade seemed smaller as well. Maybe it was the cold weather.

Friday, December 11, 2009


About twenty-five years ago, a neighbor of mine took clippers to every bush and tree in his yard and trimmed them to what he thought was a perfect shape. Among his trees was a dogwood that he trimmed into a perfect sphere on top of a straight trunk. Why would anyone do that to a dogwood?

The yard looked like illustrations we have all seen in children's books, wherein the trees and most of the animals assumed perfect geometric shapes.

Reflecting on this phenomenon, it occurred to me that what makes life interesting is not perfection, but imperfection. It is deviation from perfection - the asymmetries rather than the symmetries of life that make other persons recognizable. It is variations in thought and opinion that make other people intellectually interesting. If we were all perfect, by definition we would all be alike. And boring.

Vive le difference.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Planning for Oriental's Future

Last Friday I met with a graduate student working on a dissertation about land use planning in coastal communities. She asked an interesting question: "to what extent, if any, is sea level rise or flood risk incorporated into land use planning?"

That seems like a good question. In the past four years, the sea level datum for Pamlico County has been raised a foot. How many more feet will it take for us to have a serious problem?

Estimates vary as to how much sea level is expected to rise in the next century: from one to seven meters. One meter would bring the water over Hodges Street most of the time. Seven meters might leave some of my roof exposed. No one estimates that sea level will go down.

It wouldn't hurt to give this some thought.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Day that Lives in Infamy

Sixty-eight years ago today (Dec. 7, 2009) the landlord pounded on the door of our upstairs apartment in Tallahassee and announced: "the Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor." I was only four and a half years old, but I understood everything he said.

My dad was a Tech Sergeant in the Army Air Corps. Just two days before, he had returned from the Carolina Maneuvers. Earlier in the summer, while my dad was away at the Louisiana Maneuvers, my brother was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Later, when my grandmother drove us back to Tallahassee, we were caught in an endless military convoy poking along at about thirty-five miles an hour along two-lane highways, through small southern towns, around courthouse squares.

Three months after Pearl Harbor, my dad left for Mobile, Alabama to prepare for overseas movement. We stayed with my grandparents in Holmes County, Mississippi and didn't see my dad again for more than three years.

During those three years, we received one five-word Western Union telegram from him and occasional letters. We had no telephone. So the normal means of communication was by hand-written "V-Mail" letters reviewed (and often redacted) by censors.

No e-mails. No twitter. No digital photos. No satellite communications.

It was another time. And New Guinea was far, far away.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Welcome to Mile 181

Mile 181 on the Atlantic Section of the Intra Coastal Waterway brings you to Oriental, NC. Heading North or South on the ICW will take you to other interesting places. At Moorhead City, turn left into the Atlantic Ocean and go anywhere in the world. Many residents of Oriental have followed that path.

I expect this blog to focus on issues and interests important to the Town of Oriental, to Pamlico County, Pamlico Sound and Eastern North Carolina. Like the body of water at our doorstep, though, these concerns can lead offshore and to other exotic ports of call.

Water Boarding

I understand why some officials may view undergoing an audit as a form of torture. Being criticized in public can be, at the very least, uncomfortable. But a thorough audit is a valuable resource for developing better policies and procedures.

I am critical of some past audits. I have tried to make sure my criticism is based on facts, not on personalities. I don't intend to point a finger of blame. There certainly is shared responsibility between the Town Board and past and present Town Managers.

The point of an audit is not to find blame, but to uncover problems and suggest better ways. Before we ever heard of Pittard, Perry and Crone, the Town Board learned of the Tourism Board's practice of "rolling over" unspent allocation of funds from one budget year to the next and adding that amount to the following year's budget. That is a budget no-no. Long before we had a new auditor, the last board revealed that the administrative fee charged by the general fund to the water fund hadn't been recalculated in eight years. The bottom line is that the general fund had subsidized the water fund to the tune of about $150,000 over that eight year period. That doesn't even take into account the fact (discussed by the previous board in open session) that we weren't allowing for depreciation. We discussed the problem created by not handling the town's occupancy tax as a restricted fund and accounting for it "off books."

I think it would be irresponsible to criticize without offering some constructive suggestions. My main recommendation is to establish (or reestablish) a functioning water board. Ten of the twenty-three control and material deficiencies identified by the auditor are directly connected with administration of our water plant and associated billings and collections (including Bay River).

The town has convened a water board in the past. However, I am unable to find an ordinance establishing the board, spelling out its membership, terms of office and duties. We need such an ordinance.

The water board could advise the Town Board on policy issues, including procedures addressing each of the ten items from the audit. The board could address the question of where about a fourth of our water goes. It could also play an essential role interacting with the Rural Water Center when they come in February to assist us with our rate structure.

This is urgent.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Audit Analysis

In response to popular demand, I decided to go ahead and post my analysis of the Town of Oriental's preliminary audit for FY 2008. This is decidedly unofficial and represents only my own views. These views are subject to refinement (updated January 26 2010).


Control Deficiencies (pp 45-46)

1. Expenditures made by the general fund (FY 2007) exceeded authorized appropriations by $1,089 (tourism board) and $692 (environmental). Comment: This comment reflects three separate problem areas: (a) The excess tourism expenditure resulted from the tourism board taking unexpended budget from FY 2006 and "rolling it over" into 2007 without budgeting it. This has been going on for years and violates budgeting 101. Each FY must be budgeted separately; (b) The $692 was a result of underestimating expense of the town's solid waste contract. In both cases, there should have been a budget amendment.

2. Petty cash: no adequate accountability and proper record keeping. Comment: the town did not even keep a petty cash ledger. This problem existed for many years. Petty cash, according to former Town Manager Wyatt Cutler, was reconciled once a month. The problem no longer exists because the former petty cash system has been replaced by the use of town credit cards and revolving accounts.

3. Invoices paid not defaced. Comment: we weren’t using a “Paid” stamp. This has been corrected.

4. Personnel files do not include the current year approved wages. Comment: the files are being updated. Not yet completed.

5. No schedule of accrued vacation hours by employee maintained. This function was available in our accounting software, and was being used, but no printout was being maintained on hand for easy verification.

6. Financial records need to be filed systematically. Comment: filing system is being revised and improved.

7. Powell bill report for June 30, 2009 does not balance. Expenses understated by $3001.10. Comment: This error in the July 15 report was corrected in an August 26 amendment to the report, as soon as it was pointed out by the auditors.

8. Budget amendments have been made only at year end. A check of official minutes in recent years shows that this is true. Budget should be monitored continuously and amended as needed. A factor in the past was that each department had a very large "miscellaneous line" in the budget. This may have contributed to lax budget discipline.

9. Town is billing approximately 63% of gallons pumped from wells monthly. Comment: In general, 12 – 15% waste is about normal. What we have is unlikely to be a billing problem. Water is leaking somewhere. Or it is being used through unrecorded and unread meters, or meters are badly out of calibration. This sounds like a problem with the physical plant, and it needs to be investigated. Good task for a reconstituted water board.

10. Late fees for water and sewer service not charged consistently. Comment: we have no late fees. What we do have is reconnect fees when water is disconnected due to non-payment or at customer request. It may be that some reconnect fees were forgiven due to disconnect being in error or other reason. In any event, reasons for forgiving reconnect fees are now being documented. The water board should review the procedure and recommend policy to the Town Board.

11. Water deposits, sewer deposits and prepaid bills all recorded in same account. Three new accounts have been established. Commingled accounts exist for the period before October, 2009. The problem will eventually go away with time.

12. The general fund charges the water fund $4,000 per month for administrative services. No documentation of how this is computed. Comment: I raised this issue during this year’s budget cycle. Turned out the amount was last calculated in 2001 and not recalculated for eight years, even though we had hired additional personnel, the water testing and other system requirements had grown, and much more public works time was spent on the water system than in 2001. There were other omissions, such as failure to estimate gasoline expense for meter reading. I calculated the general fund had subsidized the water fund about $150,000 between 2001 and 2008 and the annual charge should now be $82,000 instead of $48,000. We took steps in this budget cycle toward correcting this. Not mentioned in the list of control deficiencies, but another shortcoming in financial management of the water system is the failure to provide for system depreciation. Bottom line is that we are still losing money on water. The water board needs to review this before the Rural Water Association comes in February 2010 to assist in reviewing our rate structure.

Material Deficiencies (pp 46-47)

1. Segregation of duties is an on-going issue. Comment: I agree with auditor’s comment “this weakness is impractical to correct at this time due to a small staff.”

2. Bank reconciliations are performed by employees who are not independent of the recording duties and are not reviewed or approved by a second party. Comment: A new procedure assigns this task to Town staff, not the manager.

3. Upon examining the collections drawer it was noted there was approximately $7,000 on hand with some checks 14 days old. Comment: the auditor fails to mention there was no lock on the drawer. Delaying deposits of cash and checks costs money (loss of interest) as well as presenting a security problem. There may have been a misunderstanding on the part of some office personnel that daily deposits would cost the town additional money. Our new manager discovered that was not so. Daily deposits are now being made. We should also take a look at our office safe. There should be a safe suitable for depositing money.

4. The town does not have a purchase order system in place. Comment: The town started using the Peachtree Accounting software purchase order system in October, 2009. It had not previously been used.

5. No listing of journal entries for the year with supporting documentation. No approval process before journal entries made in the accounting software (Peachtree). Comment: this is being corrected.

6. Town does not maintain a fixed asset ledger. Comment: Office personnel insist there is such a ledger. It may be that the town manager didn't understand what the auditor was seeking. In any event, now that the ledger has been located, it turns out not to have included Police Department equipment. This is being added.

7. No computer security controls in place. Comment: Correction of this deficiency is about 50% complete.

8. No approval process for utility adjustments. Comment: Most adjustments are made by Bay River. They are the approval authority. It may be that we should formalize approval of each request to Bay River. Adjustments to water bills sometimes result from misread meters. Policy for making and approving adjustments should be based on water board recommendations.

9. Water extensions not monitored effectively. Comment: this may not be accurate. On the other hand, it might be that this and other water system issues should be addressed by our Water Board. We have had a Water Board in the past, but we seem to have no ordinance establishing it, setting terms of reference for its duties, etc. The last time the board is recorded to have met is more than two years ago.

10. There is no reconciliation process for water payments collected. Comment: This may not be accurate. Since the audit, the town has purchased a cash register module and is using it. This could be another topic for review by the water committee.

11. There is no contract in place with Bay River. Comment: The town has been negotiating with Bay River to correct this omission for several months. As a separate issue not addressed by the auditor, the town needs to negotiate a number of additional inter local agreements or memoranda of understanding with the county, including the Sheriff’s Department and Animal Control.

Bottom Line:
The list of deficiencies is nothing to lose sleep over. The most important of them (except for the cash drawer) had already been identified and were being addressed by the Town Board before the audit began. Most importantly, I think, is the apparent need to reestablish an effective Water Board.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Audit III

The most heated exchange at last Tuesday's Town Board meeting concerned the draft audit report. It was noted that this year's report identifies 12 control deficiencies and 11 material deficiencies, whereas the previous auditor did not note a single deficiency. Has the town all of a sudden taken a nose dive in its procedures? Probably not. I believe our previous audits for the past several years were inadequate.

What do I know about audits? I was government contracts officer for two government contracting firms and Chief Financial Officer of a private equity firm with a government guarantee by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. I have represented my firms at audits by the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Been there. Done that.

In early 2008 in open session I questioned the statement in the 2007 audit report that the auditor's review "...would not necessarily identify all deficiencies in internal control that might be significant deficiencies or material weaknesses." The report went on to say that "...providing an opinion on compliance [with laws, regulations, contracts and grant agreements] was not an objective of our audit, and accordingly we do not express an opinion." I was told by one of the returning commissioners that "this isn't that kind of audit. If we want that kind of audit, we have to pay more." Well, this time we got "that kind of audit" and it cost less.

The previous audit was a whitewash. I am told that the previous auditor sat down with the then town manager and went over some "problem areas." I don't know what they were, because the list was never put on the public record or presented to the board. It should be the prerogative of the board to determine whether shortcomings in compliance require corrective action, not the unilateral determination by the town manager.

It's a good idea to look at any audit or other evaluation with a critical eye. I hope the new board will do that. Not every deficiency is worth correcting, especially in a town this size. But there is no excuse for not making every reasonable attempt to comply with state requirements. In many cases, correcting the auditor's findings is easy to do. In other cases, I believe the auditor is either incorrect or his statement misstates the real problem.

If anyone out there would find it useful, I would be glad to post my item-by-item analysis of the audit report.

The worst mistake would be to simply dismiss the findings of the auditor. This was a good audit. I think future audits by the same firm are likely to become even better, as the auditors achieve greater familiarity with the town's strengths and weaknesses.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Meeting of Commissioners

Last night (Dec. 1, 2009), the outgoing commission cleaned up some remaining loose ends, County Commissioner Paul Delamar III swore in newly-elected commissioners, and the new commissioners began their own term.

There were four loose ends: outgoing commissioners approved November minutes of regular and special sessions; commissioners formally opened some previously closed minutes and agreed to the eventual release of minutes relating to South Avenue litigation; amended the town's fee schedule to include a parade permit fee of $10 (to cover the cost of insurance rider for the event); and the commissioners granted formal authority to the mayor to exercise day to day supervision of the town manager. Commissioner Styron asked why the board was opening closed minutes, which the town had never done in the past. I explained that the County Commissioners had begun the practice and I thought it appropriate for more open government. Mayor Sage observed that it removes some of the mystery surrounding government actions. The town's attorney explained that many of his clients do this and expressed the view that it should be done every six months or so.

After the new board assumed office, the most interesting exchange took place when Commissioner Warren Johnson drew attention to the audit report, recently received by the town in draft form. Commissioner Johnson found some of the findings disturbing. This will undoubtedly be addressed in more detail at the January meeting when the auditor will formally present the report to the board.