By Elizabeth F. McNamara
On Sept. 4, East Greenwich filed both its second and third quarter reports with Rhode Island. The third quarter report shows that expenses from that quarter were $800,000 less than the Town Council was previously told.
Rhode Island law mandates that municipalities file second, third and fourth quarter financial reports 25 days after the close of the quarter, so the second quarter report was seven-and-a-half months late, and the third quarter report was four-and-a-half months late. The fourth quarter report has not yet been filed – a situation to which Councilor Mark Schwager vociferously objected at the Oct. 22 Town Council meeting – and is now three months late.
The third quarter data filed with the state raise questions. In a report to the Town Council April 9 on the town’s third quarter finances, Finance Director Linda Dykeman stated the town’s actual expenses through the third quarter were $47.8 million (Town of EG 3rd Q 2018 Finance Report). But in the third quarter report filed with the state Sept. 4, the actual expenses line was $47 million, a difference of $800,000.
On Tuesday, Dykeman and Town Manager Gayle Corrigan refused to clarify the discrepancy.
“We’re working on the audit,” Corrigan said.
The $800,000 difference cannot be explained by referring to the abbreviated report submitted to the state. Releasing the town’s fourth quarter data would probably clarify the discrepancy but Corrigan, backed by Town Council President Sue Cienki, has declined to hand over fourth quarter data for 2018 (which ended June 30). She told the Town Council at its last meeting, Oct. 22, that the finance department was working on the audit and she did not want to release unaudited data.
When municipalities miss deadlines for filing financial reports, the task of enforcing state law falls to the state’s Department of Municipal Finance.
“If a statutorily required report is not submitted on time, the Dept. of Municipal Finance follows up with a municipality until the overdue report is submitted,” said DMF spokesman Paul Grimaldi Tuesday. “There is some leeway given to them if we know they are working toward getting them to us,” he said.
Grimaldi would not comment on the specifics of East Greenwich.
Because the fourth quarter remains open for several weeks or longer beyond June 30, many cities and towns do not produce a timely fourth quarter report. A review of the state’s “transparency portal” shows only 10 communities out of 36 have filed fourth quarter reports. However, that does not mean those communities have not updated financial information for elected officials (as is the case in East Greenwich).
For example, neighboring North Kingstown has not submitted its 2018 fourth quarter report to the state but Finance Director Jim Lathrop presented a fourth quarter update for the NK Town Council in July (NK June Budget Report 2018).
Lathrop said North Kingstown also has a citizen audit committee that meets every two weeks this time of year to get an update on the year-end audit. East Greenwich has no such committee.
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