Herbst: 'Personal animosity,' 'political agenda' limit treasurer's reimbursement policy
The following is a letter sent from First Selectman Tim Herbst to Board of Finance Chairwoman that was sent to The Trumbull Times Friday, April 15, in regards to Town Treasurer Anthony Musto's financial report given to the board the previous night, April 14. The attachment's mentioned in the letter could not be uploaded online, but The Times verified the first selectman's statements regarding Attachment A.
Dear Chairwoman Hammers:
This morning, I was briefed by staff regarding last night's Board of Finance meeting, specifically as it relates to the report presented by the Trumbull Town Treasurer. I've had the opportunity to review Mr. Musto's report in detail and I am incredibly troubled by the lack of consistency, clarity and outright sloppiness contained in his report.
In his February 2016 report, Treasurer Musto lists $91,715.00 of interest income for the TO Bank Investment Money Fund. In the March 2016 report, under the same investment money fund he lists interest income of $68,882.00 representing a nearly $23,000 loss. I was advised by staff present at last night's meeting that upon questioning by you and other members of the board, Treasurer Musto could not answer or articulate why there was such a differential. I should also note that under the STIF Money Fund for February of2016, Treasurer Musto reports an average rate/yield of .38% yet in the following month, for the same money fund he lists a rate/yield of 30%. This would lead me to conclude the following:
1.) Treasurer Musto does not understand the essential functions of his job nor does he understand how to read the numbers contained in his report; or
2.) Treasurer Musto does not review his work product or check for clerical errors or inconsistencies prior to submitting his report to the Board of Finance. The proof of how rushed his work product was is underscored by the fact that you received the report one day before your regularly scheduled meeting.
After a painstaking effort to try and understand his report, with members questioning mistakes and inconsistencies, I was further advised that when members of the Board of Finance asked him to send them an amended report via email for today (Friday) he indicated he was unable to do so. When members asked Mr. Musto if they could have an amended report by Monday, he again reiterated that he was unable to do so. I am intensely concerned that the Town Treasurer does not think he has to be responsive to requests from the Board of Finance for timely and accurate information. If the Town Treasurer cannot make simple amendments to his reports within a 72 hour window on a weekend to correct outright sloppiness, it begs the question as to whether somebody else is preparing these reports to be submitted under his name. Since his installation in December, Mr. Musto has required the Town Attorneys, Finance Director, Accounting Manager, Internal Auditor and other employees spend dozens of hours being responsive to his requests, yet he does not feel he has to be responsive to elected boards that provide financial oversight for the Town.
Working in Town Hall, I have observed Mr. Musto's work schedule for the last four months. If Mr. Musto comes to Town Hall, it is only one day a week, for not more than 3 hours. When Mr. Musto does come to Town Hall, he shuts his office door. Any Town employee or member of the general public would not know when he is in his office. This is in stark contrast to the work schedule of former Treasurer John Ponzio, who came to Town Hall 3-4 days per week. Mr. Musto's lack of engagement or attention to his duties was further amplified yesterday. The Town Treasurer had a 1.5 hour meeting with the Finance Director and Accounting Manager in the Finance Director's office. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Musto left the building and did not even go to his office.
This morning, as I was on my way to a meeting in the Economic and Community Development Department, adjacent to Mr. Musto's office, I noticed that there was an interoffice communication from Sean O'Keefe, Business Manager for the Trumbull Board of Education, dated April 7, 2016 to the attention of the Town Treasurer. (See Attachment A). This inter office communication has been in Mr. Musto's inbox for more than a week and has not yet been picked up and opened. We do not know what is in this envelope and we do not know if this document involves a financial transaction that is time sensitive. As the old adage goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. Based upon last night's performance before the Board of Finance and the issues raised above, it is clear that the Town Treasurer is not engaged in his duties and responsibilities and clearly isn't putting in the time to carry out his job in the same professional manner as his predecessor.
The Town Treasurer is submitting reports wrought with error not only because he doesn't put in the time he should, but when he actually does expend time being the Treasurer, he is consumed by political vendettas and personal agendas that are outside of the scope of his authority. The Town Treasurer spends more time telling hard working and dedicated employees in the Finance Department how to do their job, rather than doing his own. Town employees are spending considerable amounts of time, energy and resources responding to his communications that are wholly inaccurate. More troubling, the Town Treasurer has demonstrated that he has no understanding of municipal finance or how IRS regulations are applied to government agencies and government officials.
I attach for your review a series of emails to and from the Town Treasurer dated March I 7th, March 23rd, April 7, April 11, April 12 and April 13, 2016. (See Attachment B). I also attach for your review a four page letter from the Town Attorney to the Town Treasurer addressing many of the allegations he has made. (See Allachment C). For nearly one month, the Town Treasurer has focused almost all of his time exclusively on the First Selectman's annual expense account of $5,000. I should note that while other employees have similar expense accounts, the Town Treasurer has not reviewed them. Initially, the Town Treasurer took the position that the First Selectman's expense account was not in conformance with IRS guidelines. Thereafter, the Town Treasurer's allegations were reviewed by the Trumbull Town Attorney, the Finance Director and the Accounting Manager.
As evidenced from the Town Attorney's legal opinion of April 8, 2016, it is clear that the Town Treasurer does not understand how the Internal Revenue Code applies to municipal finance. The Town Treasurer actually believes that a budgeted account is a reimbursement. Second, the Treasurer is using provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (529) that deal with personal individual expenses and attempting to apply these standards to obligations of the Town. Further, it appears that the Town Treasurer was not even aware of IRS Regulation 463. To underscore how the Treasurer does not do his job, even though he has access to the Town's entire check register, not once has the Town Treasurer asked the Finance Director or any member of her staff any questions relative to much larger disbursements that are six and seven figures. This was evidenced last night by the fact the Treasurer could not respond to any of your questions regarding disbursements of significance in the current month.
At my request, to eliminate any perception of misconduct and to maintain independence of judgment, I requested that Internal Auditor Therese Keegan review pertinent documentation relevant to Mr. Musto's allegations. Ms. Keegan reports to the Board of Finance, is outside of my chain of command and is a certified public accountant well versed with the Internal Revenue Code. The Internal Auditor opined on April 13, 2016, "[a]s a certified public accountant with years of experience in tax, financial accounting and auditing, I would have approved your submissions for payment." This was further confirmed by Dan Martin, the Town's Accounting Manager who concluded that "the documentation that you and the other employees provide for either reimbursement or payment of invoice is appropriate to support the expense." I should note that the Town Attorney also provided a four page legal opinion to the Town Treasurer addressing his erroneous allegations. To date, the Finance Director, Town Attorney, the Accounting Manager and the Internal Auditor have spent a combined 20 plus hours responding to erroneous allegations made by the Town Treasurer.
Mr. Musto's personal animosity and political agenda are as plain as the light of day. The proof is rooted in Mr. Musto's hypocritical standards. Mr. Musto previously served as Town Treasurer from 2005-2008, under First Selectman Baldwin. At that time, Mr. Musto did not review any receipts, did not request additional back up information, did not question expenditures and did not raise any concerns about the absence of policy. Had he done so, he would have realized that when he was Town Treasurer the first time, my predecessor's expense account was not in conformance with IRS Regulation 463. As a result of these previous deficiencies, former Town Treasurer John Ponzio and Finance Director Maria Pires worked together to develop internal policies consistent with this regulation that have been in place for the last six years and four months.
Since this has consumed the Town Treasurer's time, it is understandable that Mr. Musto does not put in the requisite hours to perform his duties competently and professionally, does not come to Town Hall to pick up relevant correspondence and repeatedly submits to your board reports that lack explanation and detail, that are wrought with errors and sloppiness. Perhaps the Town Treasurer can get focused on doing his job properly before he tells other employees in this building how they should be conducting their business.