Released documents reveal clerk’s misdeeds Audits showed discrepancies, possible ‘kiting’ — (The Eagle-Tribune)

SSRI Ed note: Town Clerk on oxycodone, Diazepam, Cymbalta commits fraud, is quietly removed from job,

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The Eagle-Tribune

By Jarret Bencks,

NEWTON ­ At the end of Raymond Thayer’s tenure as town clerk and tax collector, the town’s books were a mess, he was inappropriately charging ­ and pocketing ­fees to mortgage companies, and other town officials were concerned about his misuse of prescription drugs.

But the story wasn’t made public for more than two years until documents surrounding Thayer’s resignation were unsealed this week.

Thayer, 55, submitted his resignation after 16 years on June 4, 2007, when the town attorney advised the selectmen to seek it. Less than 10 months later, Thayer was elected to a three-year term as a selectman, a position he still holds.

Thayer resigned in the middle of two audits on the town’s books, audits that differed in the specifics, but agreed there were financial discrepancies ­ and some money couldn’t be accounted for.

One audit showed an “unidentified difference” between the clerk’s receipts and the general ledger of $11,209. The other showed receipt discrepancies of nearly $39,000.

But the selectmen in office at the time said they didn’t ­ and still don’t ­ know whether any town funds were missing. And they also can’t remember whether they asked Thayer to resign.

“At the end, there were conflicting stories,” selectmen’s Chairman Robert Donovan said yesterday. “It’s real difficult to figure out what is fact and what isn’t.”

Police Chief Larry Streeter said he was never asked to investigate any wrongdoing and the matter appeared to die with Thayer’s resignation.

“I was never brought into it at that level. It was dealt with administratively,” Streeter said yesterday. “I would have forwarded the information to the county attorney’s office.”

But Thayer was on Streeter’s radar, at least since October 2005. There were numerous reports of erratic driving by Thayer and concern from other town officials that he might be misusing prescription medication.

Those medications, according to a police report, included oxycodone, Diazepam and Cymbalta.

“It is my opinion that Thayer may be abusing his medication and may be receiving medication from questionable sources,” Streeter wrote in a report March 2, 2006.

Less than a week later, Streeter wrote to the head of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, asking that department to review and possibly suspend Thayer’s driving privileges.

” We have tried to work with him regarding the obvious issues without going to this extent,” Streeter wrote. “Obviously and unfortunately, it has not worked.”

It was only this week, a year and a half after Thayer resigned, that all this came to light. Earlier this week, former Selectman John Ulcickas asked the selectmen to unseal the documents concerning Thayer’s resignation.

Bookkeeping discrepancies first came to light in March 2007 when Municipal Resources Inc. conducted an audit for the town.

That showed disparities between what the town and the state collected for vehicle registrations ­ in the amount of $26,989. It also revealed discrepancies in tax receipts between the town treasurer and tax collector of $38,865.

The town’s attorney learned from Municipal Resources Inc. that Thayer had been charging mortgage companies fees for time he spent researching mortgage information.

Those fees are not permissible under state statute. Thayer kept those fees as personal income, according to the report.

In a letter to the selectmen in May 2007, town attorney John Ratigan recommended that the town negotiate the terms of Thayer’s resignation or try to remove him from office. On May 15, 2007, the selectmen put Thayer on administrative leave. He resigned less than three weeks later.

Thayer didn’t leave empty-handed. The town gave him three months’ severance pay ­$12,150 ­ and six months of health care coverage.

Hours after Thayer submitted his resignation, the town received the results of the second audit, which found some vehicle permits were missing from the town books, but were included in monthly deposits.

These instances were “indicative of kiting,” CPA Tammy Webb wrote.

Webb told the selectmen she could have followed up on the registration irregularities ­ with more extensive research.

But the pursuit of missing money or bookkeeping irregularities stopped there.

“It kind of went away after he resigned,” Donovan said. “We didn’t go any further with it.”

Donovan said he was unsure whether any money was missing or if the discrepancies were simply a matter of bad bookkeeping.

“I wasn’t sure,” Donovan said yesterday. “I’m still not sure.”

Selectman Trisha McCarthy said she, too, was unsure whether any money was actually missing.

“I’m still wrapping my hands around this,” McCarthy said yesterday, “trying to assess exactly what happened.”

Ulcickas was a selectman when Thayer resigned.

He lost his seat last March when Thayer beat him in a three-way race.

Reports of improper behavior on Thayer’s part first came to the town’s attention in August 2006, when Mark Stolberg wrote a letter to the selectmen about an $18,000 tax lien Thayer had erroneously placed against his property.

Paperwork shows it took Stolberg months to have the lien removed, even after Thayer had acknowledged his mistake and promised to rectify it.

“Mistakes are made, but can be fixed,” Thayer wrote to Stolberg on May 9, 2006. “Sorry to scare you.”

However, the lien was not discharged until Aug. 4, 2006.

After Stolberg complained to the selectmen, the board several times directed Thayer to bring all paperwork related to the case and appear before them. Thayer failed to do so at least twice.

“We did the best we could do,” Donovan said. “We did what we felt was right at the time.”

Thayer did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.