Q & A with Peterborough Town Administrator Nicole MacStay

  • Peterborough Town Administrator Nicole MacStay. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Published: 9/6/2021 3:56:48 PM

The following is a Q&A with Town Administrator Nicole MacStay, conducted by Rick Green, who is reporting on the Peterborough scam for the Ledger-Transcript.

What can you tell us about staffing in the Finance Department at this time?

“The staff who were directly targeted in this fraud were placed on leave pending the results of the investigation into the circumstances that led up to the misdirected ACH (electronic fund) transfers. I cannot provide more details as this is a personnel matter.

Finance Director Leo Smith’s retirement date of 8/31/21 was planned many months in advance to provide the town with enough time to seek a new finance director and provide a smooth transition.

The new finance director is Lilli Gilligan. Her start date in town was July 30.”

(Misdirected fund transfers went out on July 9, July 26, and August 13.)

Any new developments in the $2.3 million scam?

“We’ve scheduled a Select Board public hearing for 5 p.m. September 21 having to do with emergency expenditure in the current fiscal year in excess of our authorized appropriation (to cover money lost in the scam. The town announced Friday evening the U.S Secret Service had recovered $594,000 of the $2.3 million). 

I’m also assuming we’ll discuss it at some point Tuesday during the Selectmen’s meeting.”

Has anyone at the town expressed regret, or apology, or taken responsibility?

“There has been no public apology. The fact of the matter is, we’re not expecting one from the thieves. It was their intent to steal the money and I don’t think they will apologize to anyone for having done so.

The staff members who were unfortunately duped by those thieves, that’s a personnel matter so I can’t discuss that at any length. But I can say it was shocking and it was a horrible thing that happened to all of us.

I do feel terrible that this happened under my watch but unfortunately there is a limit to the amount of control I have over finance controls and policies and how they are executed. The treasurer’s duties and responsibilities are delegated out to very specific people in specific positions.”

(Under Chapter 194 of the town’s Code Book, the treasurer delegates authority for electronic funds transfer for accounts payable to the positions of payroll/accounts payable and tax collector. Shannon Kelley handles accounts payable and Beth Marsh is the tax collector)

“As the person who approves all the purchases of the town, I cannot be involved in vendor transactions, payments, or acceptance of money because that would violate generally accepted accounting practices and controls that you have in place over cash. People who approve the purchases are separate from those who process the payments.

It’s a terrible thing that happened to all of our organization. We’re hurt by it. We wish that it hadn’t happened. But we’ve got a plan to move forward and that’s what we’re working through right now.”

In other towns hit by similar scams there were consequences for town employees, is that something that’s under consideration in Peterborough?

“Again, it’s a personnel matter and not something I’m at liberty to discuss.”

What is the town doing to rebuild trust in its financial services staff and how will the town assure residents this won’t happen again?

“We are relooking at all our policies to make sure they are compliant with generally accepted best accounting practices, state law, federal law. We are going to bring edits to the (financial) policy back to the Selectmen with recommended changes in the near future, and that’s a public process. And we’re going to make sure our staff understands those policies and what their responsibilities are as relates to ensure these transactions are done correctly moving forward.”




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