PITTSFIELD — Mayoral candidate John Krol has made the creation of an "internal independent auditor" a signature promise of his campaign.
The former city council vice president, who has dealt with his own financial scandals during the campaign, said he isn't asking voters to put their faith in his financial acumen but in the system he plans to create with this new position.
An audit of Pittsfield's ARPA funds revealed a 'significant deficiency' in its reporting. Here's what city leaders said about the report
The City Council has recently debated the audit of American Rescue Plan funds and findings by city auditor Scanlon & Associates of a "significant deficiency" in how the city reported use of that money to the federal government. That news has only furthered Krol's calls for a new auditor position.
In a recent sit-down with both Krol and City Council President Peter Marchetti, The Berkshire Eagle asked the mayoral candidates to elaborate on their understanding of the city's audit process and Krol's proposal.
To watch a full video of the meeting, click here. The final set of questions and answers from The Eagle’s sit-down with the candidates will be published in the coming days.
Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE: John, what do you mean by an auditor to go in and look at [city finances] and then set up recommendations. Auditors typically review the balancing of the books. Are you saying an auditor is going to be establishing priorities for where money should be spent in Pittsfield?
JOHN KROL: An internal auditor, which is a position that's been created in many other communities, would oversee the budget processes in the city of Pittsfield — but also would be able to look at operations. It's a third party — and this is a really, really important part of it — is that as a third party entity that doesn't report to the mayor, so it's an independent view.
So when we talk about 35 years of experience, that's wonderful. Peter’s asking people to trust him. I'm not asking you to trust me. I'm asking you to trust the new process that's going to make sure your tax dollars are going in the right place.
PETER MARCHETTI: In my experience of auditors, auditors look at systemic problems. Auditors look at how you operate. Auditors that I deal with on a regular basis don't deal with budgets, they deal with financial statements, they deal with the systemic approaches to how you do things. To me that's a one and done. You can hire someone to come in from the outside, do a top down audit of all the services in everything that we offer, put us on the right path and then move forward. It's not a yearly expense that we have to have on the books of a position we can take care of — it’s once and done.
THE EAGLE: How much would an auditor like this cost?
KROL: Yeah, well, we’ll definitely look at it. I mean, it would be someone who had to be quality and someone who would be well paid as a department head — but when it comes down to it, it's not a one and done. It's an ongoing effort to make sure that the policies and the processes are sound and that there is someone from the outside looking in.
Because let's face it, when you have a mayor who directs and appoints a director of finance, and you have an auditor that's been the outside auditor for the last 20 years, things may get overlooked. So I want to put policies in place — and we've seen this over the last week or so as far as protocols that have not been followed under the city charter — so we need to shore that up and internal auditor will certainly help.
MARCHETTI: In life in general, whenever you have something — so he’s going to hire an outside auditor and after the first four [years] he’s there he better fire them and the second term hire a second one because they’re now going to be part of the establishment, they're gonna be working for the mayor —
KROL: Nope, nope.
MARCHETTI: — they're working for the city. They're getting paid. They'll eventually become part of the establishment.
KROL: That's the establishment talking. And if you create a position that does not report to the mayor and that is independent — see, this is the establishment talking —
MARCHETTI: — Now now no, you were part of the establishment for a long time and you want to deflect and that's what you've been doing this whole campaign. That's what will happen.
I've spent 35 years in the banking industry. We have dealt with some of the same auditors year in and year out and every year that we have an audit they find things that we do wrong that need to be improved upon. And that is what the system of an auditor is.
This audit that [the city] had showed that we actually put items on two different quarterly reports of spending — we didn't spend the money. It was misreported. Once it was rectified. There is now a system in place that when the federal treasury gets the report, it balances back to the general ledger.
You're making more of something than what’s there. You want to throw around ‘the establishment,’ you want to throw around the ‘status quo.’ And quite frankly, you ought to read some of the policies the city has now and learn them.
KROL: And it's really important to read the city charter, because the city charter says that by March 1 of every year that report from the external auditor should be presented to the city council. That was not done, first of all.
Second of all — and Peter is a part of leadership — and certainly I would think that he would know about this process. And then the other thing is that there should be a joint meeting between the school committee and the city council and that must be done 60 days before the fiscal year ends on July 1. Both of those things were not done for the first time since the new charter was created several years ago. Why in the world did that happen? So this is exactly what we're talking about in bringing transparency. We don't have it today. We need to bring it back to the city.
MARCHETTI: Read the charter, the joint meeting to be called by the mayor. You want to tie me to her every chance you can get. My title is city council president in case you haven’t figured it out yet. She's the mayor. It's not my job to call the joint meeting.
The audit was provided to the finance director, it wasn't provided to the city council. Again. I asked numerous times for the audit to come forward, it never came forward. We got into campaign season and — sure, you can hold me accountable for the fact that I didn't keep asking. Not my job.
KROL: So to be clear, Peter did push to keep this external auditor and it was in October of 2022. It was a three-person committee that was created, and Peter was a part of that committee. The director of finance was a part of that committee and the city accountant was part of that committee. That committee recommended staying with Scanlon & Associates in October and so it's hard to believe that Peter was not on top of this process that moved forward.
That audit was completed by March. There should have been a presentation to the council and there should have been that joint meeting and it didn't take place.
MARCHETTI: And again, I'm just gonna say understand the process. Whenever you go through a bidding process, that is run through the purchasing agent, that was not me. I made the request based on what the charter said and we put the process in motion.
KROL: — and didn't have meetings you were supposed to under the city charter.
MARCHETTI: The administration didn’t have their meetings. Not the council.
KROL: You're the co-governor, Peter.
MARCHETTI: I'm not the co-governor. I'm the leader of the legislative branch. There's a difference. You don't know the difference between the legislative and the executive branch. You just want to keep tying them together.
KROL: Peter, you and Linda Tyer work very closely together with the director of finance.
MARCHETTI: And John: Four years ago, Linda Tyer, Peter Marchetti and John Krol worked really close together. You forget that.
Up next: In the final installment of The Eagle’s sit downs with mayoral candidates, we ask Marchetti and Krol to make their final pitch to the voters on their qualifications and their predictions for election day, Nov. 7.
Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-496-6149. Click here to read the original article including links to support stories.