Business manager responds to accusations

By Scott Vaitones | Jan 20, 2014

The VillageSoup on Jan. 13, published online then in print Jan. 16, the text of a speech attacking me given by Brian Messing at the school board meeting Jan. 9. In a public meeting, Mr. Messing called me a liar, questioned my competency as business manager for Regional School Unit 13, and called for me to be fired.

The board chairman allowed this defamatory verbal assault on me, even though sound practices would never allow any school employee to be personally attacked in a public forum without notice or any opportunity to defend himself.

Since Mr. Messing clearly had direct access to information that was not public, which apparently the superintendent provided to him, it is clear this was a deliberate attempt to defame me publicly, damage my reputation, and cost me my employment despite the fact I hold a contract that was just renewed through June 30, 2015. Thus although I would not normally condone public discussion of such matters, I want to set the record straight on a few things.

Mr. Messing’s primary attacks on me were related to the food service and insurance payments. He identified problems with these and laid all the blame at my feet. I’m not afraid to take responsibility for my share of any errors. I don’t want there to be any errors, any more than anyone else does. But Mr. Messing’s attacks on me are both inaccurate and unfair.

Mr. Messing states the auditors have had to spend weeks beyond their regular auditing time because of all the errors they were finding, again apparently based on insider information fed to him. But I was told by the lead auditor on Oct. 10 that he agreed completely with my estimated fund balance for FY 2013 and that they were done with just a day at most of clean-up. On Oct. 13, I notified the board of my concern the budget approved by the voters was being overspent due to added positions not budgeted for. This is the very kind of thing that has resulted in serious budget problems in other school units. Since that notification, I have had my authority stripped and been ousted from my position. The auditors have spent upwards of 15 to 20 additional days auditing and billing the RSU. My budget concerns remain.

Mr. Messing is right that the food service program has not sustained itself for years, which is a fact well-known to him and the superintendent and on which I and others had worked looking for solutions. I supported the suggestion of building in an annual appropriation to help reduce the operating deficit in that account, which was and still is being done. He falsely accused me of not following instructions of the board to carry that out and lying about the deficit. The charge is ridiculous. Why on earth would I do that when I supported the effort to bring down the accumulated deficit? This is not an unusual problem. Many school units struggle to balance their food service accounts. He failed to note, for example, the SAD 5 programs was it self running in the red and that debt was paid off as part of the consolation. He talks in generalities of a $350,000 to $400,000 deficit. The actual number is slightly less at $319,147. This is not acceptable but a solution is being pursued, a solution I supported.

Mr. Messing notes that last year’s budget was overspent. His comment was a direct quote from the draft audit that he as an individual resident had no right to see. And he blames all this on me. However, the June 30, 2013, financials I distributed to the School Board Finance Committee for its Aug. 22, 2013, meeting had the budget under spent by $620,946. I agree this was off and accept my fair share of responsibility for it. It happened we now know because of an under reporting of BC/BS and Dental insurance payments made with respect to employees who received no paychecks during the summer months. The error understated the June 30, 2013, expenses by slightly less than $300,000 — still leaving the budget $320,000 under spent.

The insurance reporting error happened because of an accounting glitch in our payroll and accounts software programs that went back to the consolidation and which we and the auditors have been trying to resolve. This problem showed up in earlier audits and was adjusted by accounting entries to reconcile the figures, but that did not solve the problem. Only last fall, after the auditors spent four days studying the problem with our staff, was it determined why this had been happening. Of course I agree this problem needed to be fixed. I had worked on it and had asked for the auditor’s help or recommendations. But if I am incompetent as Mr. Messing says because of a problem it took an experienced auditor four solid days to figure out with my staff, then so be it.

Mr. Messing inaccurately said there was a fund balance of only $700,000 to $800,000 for FY 13, again apparently relying on the nonpublic draft audit he somehow obtained. The actual audit shows a fund balance of $1,207,210.

As for people who have voiced their support in me, it has been very humbling and I’d like to think my transparency, honesty and accountability is what they support. I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I place my trust in the board to be fair to judge whether they consider me incompetent after they listen to more than one side of this story. I am willing to take responsibility when it is due and am ready willing and able to complete my contract with RSU 13 with the same dedication and diligence I have always tried to bring to the job.

Although Mr. Messing has rendered many years of service to the district, I find I simply have to disagree with him on his main contentions.

Scott Vaitones is the business manager for RSU 13, which includes schools in Rockland, Owls Head, South Thomaston, Thomaston, Cushing and St. George.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Carol W Bachofner | Jan 22, 2014 08:38

While Mr Messing may not have been given information FROM or BY the superintendent, I fully believe he was given it by someone doing the superintendent's bidding. Look to his sidekick and ask the obvious question. She seems to act for him whenever he wants a teflon appearance. Why else would he have info that the board itself did not have until that same day? If, as Kilgour and Collins state, it was public info anyone could get under Freedom of Access, could he have filed for and gotten that in a matter of a few hours? Doubtful. The wheels don't turn that quickly.

Messing has a material interest in the outcome of this upcoming hearing. So does auditor Smith. Do the math. Lots of nest-feathering happening me thinks.

 



Posted by: SCOTT VAITONES | Jan 22, 2014 08:04

RSU # 13 June 30, 2012 Audit Schedule 2 page 42 Total expense budget $26,148,204 total spent $26,010,058.  Budget under spent by $138,146.

RSU # 13 June 30, 2013 Draft Audit Schedule 2 page Total expense budget $26,462,700 total spent $26,182,735.  Budget under spent by $279,965.

However, a reporting error by the auditor on page 10 of the June 30, 2013 draft audit reports "he general expenditures exceeded the budget by $30,82." That is a totally inaccurate statement by the auditor.

 

 

 



Posted by: BRIAN MESSING | Jan 21, 2014 22:45

Mr. Vaitones needs to understand what constitutes a defamatory assault, since none was made by me and he is very close to doing so himself. He needs to be careful in the use of the term and insinuations he, himself, makes.

He says, “it is clear” that the Superintendent made me privy to information that was not public, perhaps in an attempt at misdirection. The Superintendent has never given me any such knowledge. Everything that I stated at the January Board meeting was gleaned from what was presented by the auditor at the November meeting, a brief conversation with the auditor following that meeting, my review of the released audit reports since the inception of the RSU, and conversations held with many of the Board members. As noted by the Board Chair, the RSU has a “leaky” Board. I would have no idea if any of them may have said something that was not for public distribution, but as a member of the public, anything that I have been told is free game.

No one needs “insider information” to determine there are issues when the auditors are required to spend many weeks more than the typical 1-2 days to determine the RSU’s financial status.

In the Food Services area, Mr. Vaitones attempts to minimize the issue by saying that I spoke in generalities of a $350,000 to $400,000 deficit, while he points out the number is “only” $319,147. My figures came from estimates that the auditor was throwing around; perhaps if I had some inside information I could have provided the more accurate figure. In any regard, this is still a huge problem, although Mr. Vaitones indicates that a solution is being pursued. If that solution involves simply increasing (yet again) the subsidy to Food Services, it is not much of one.

What is completely glossed over is the fact that the Board directed the Administration to set aside money for the summer salary accruals, Mr. Vaitones flat out told the Board and the auditor this had been done to the tune of $381,000, but the money is not there. Since nothing has been set aside, I’m trying to determine what he means when he says I “falsely accused him of not following the instructions of the Board”. Show me the account where this money resides and I will apologize.

Mr. Vaitones also confuses what I wrote with what he read. I stated that the 2011/12 budget, which the Board had expected would have a reasonable un-spent balance, had instead been overspent. This is from that year’s publicly released audit report. Instead, Mr. Vaitones thought I was referring to the “last year’s budget” (which would be 2012/13) and says my comment was “a direct quote” from the draft 2012/13 report that I had no right to see. Here is a perfect example of how I get my information. Until Mr. Vaitones mentioned it in his response, I had no idea that the draft report indicated that the 2012/13 year had been overspent. But now that Mr. Vaitones has mentioned a “direct quote” from that draft, I’m led to believe we have now had 2 continuous years of overspending, which is worse than I had thought!

As I recall, the auditor indicated that the Board relied on the promise of having $1.4M heading into the 2013/14 year but that once audited, this figure would be only $700,000 to $800,000. At the Finance Committee meeting in early January, this was similarly discussed along with trying to plug what would be a $1.77M hole in the upcoming budget discussions. Mr. Vaitones still tries to tie my information to some unpublished report, even though this has all been presented in public sessions.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter where the information comes from, it matters whether it is true. The bottom line is that the RSU is in financial strife and the Administration (which includes the Business Manager) was at the helm.



Posted by: Kathleen D Daley | Jan 21, 2014 09:28

I have known Scott and his family since my childhood. They were a truly honest, decent family. I'm sure Scott remains a man of integrity. I say yet once again something doesn't smell right in regards to Collins and his settlement. Something is being hidden from the folks of RSU 13, and we need an entirely new board!



Posted by: George C. Hall & Sons, Inc George C. Hall & Sons, Inc | Jan 20, 2014 11:18

It is unfortunate that you have to defend yourself in the press, Scott! In knowing you personally & professionally for over 30 years, you have always been a person of upmost integrity and professionalism. I sincerely hope that you get a fair hearing and are exonerated by the RSU13 Board. The fact that the Chair, Tess Kilgour, allowed Brian Messing's unsubstantiated and personal attack to continue during the board meeting was just another example of why she needs to be removed.



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