MANCHESTER — Town Administrator Wayne Melville, publicly facing down questions over his handling of issues revolving around the town's harbor and moorings revenue, told selectmen Monday night that officials were aware of records discrepancies as early as 2007.
But he added that neither a change in town auditors nor other actions have been able to reconstruct the records needed for a full audit as called for by the former head of the town's Harbor Advisory Committee.
Melville addressed several allegations from a formal complaint filed with selectmen by former Harbor Committee chairman James Starkey, who alleges that Melville he failed to call for an outside audit of the Harbor Department records, knowingly submitted false records, and has not addressed the alleged lack of compliance with Massachusetts Public Records law on the part of Police Chief and Harbormaster Glenn McKiel.
Melville, however, said that, in 2007, he had requested the town's auditing — then Melanson and Heath — to review harbor records in addition to other departments. In 2008, he said, the town learned that the auditors had not reviewed the harbor records — and Manchester changed auditors to Powers and Sullivan by 2010.
The town's current auditors, said Melville, were asked to audit the 2010 harbor records, and found a number of problems with the harbor books. Melville added that he asked them to look at the 2007 Harbor records, but the company said the town did not have the resources to carry out such a project — and Powers and Sullivan doubted they could audit the records at all.
"These records can't be reconstructed," Melville said.
Melville's comments came after he had called for his portion of the hearing to be held in open session. Both Melville and McKiel are the targets of formal complaints filed with the selectmen by former Harbor Advisory Committee Chairman Jim Starkey.
McKiel opted for his meeting with the selectmen to be in executive, or closed, session. And he faced the selectmen's questions behind closed doors at the start of the 5:30 p.m. session.
McKiel declined to comment after exiting his portion of the hearing, which carried until close to 7 p.m. Melville's public testimony followed that of the chief.
Starkey's complaints against the two town officials are essentially tied to a number of harbor-related charges Starkey initially pursued a year ago.
Starkey had raised concerns that roughly $31,000 had been unaccounted for out of the town's projected harbor revenues over the 2007-2009 fiscal years.
In the months that followed, an investigation by McKiel determined that the $31,000 shortfall came from slip and mooring fees in the Inner Harbor for which the town never billed during those fiscal years.
The Selectmen later Monday night were also poised to address a ruling from the state Attorney General's office that stands behind the town's harbormaster bylaw as approved by voters at Manchester's annual Town Meeting in April.
The new bylaw — also pushed by Starkey, who was not reappointed to the harbor Advisory panel last year after he had brought forward a report critical of McKiel's handling of harbor issues — now mandates that whomever holds that position cannot hold another town job the rest of the year, effectively blocking McKiel from continuing in both posts.
McKiel had challenged with the AG's office regarding the Town Meeting petition, noting that the selectmen had reappointed to the dual positions under a new three-year contract in 2010. And Melville has raised concerns about the full-time harbormaster's job, largely because, while approving Starkey position, Town Meeting voters did not budget any money to cover the new post.
The selectmen's meeting Monday night also follows the full resignation of the Harbor Advisory Committee, now chaired by Karen Smith-Crawley.
The more recent committee resigned over the inability to access public records, Crawley has said, among other concerns. Her committee, however, has since temporarily reformed to undertake a full audit of the town's moorings, at the request of Selectwoman Susan Thorne and Selectman Paul Barclay.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.