GREAT BARRINGTON – It’s not that no one knows how some of the Great Barrington Housing Authority’s money is spent. The problem is, the board doesn’t know certain details, and two board members are trying to change that.
And that sparked the latest clash between some of those running the authority. This time, it concerns expenses not detailed in the financial statement presented to the members of the council each month.
The frustration around the line item titled “Other Administrative” is also just a brawl in an ongoing battle over the frequency of public records requests by board member Eileen Mooney, who says management of authorities do not regularly provide the board with complete financial information. based.
When Mooney asked the Authority’s office last month to provide the information and copies of billing invoices for these expenses, he was told it would cost him $ 16.50 an hour to have staff produces them, and 5 cents per page for copies, according to the emails provided. by Mooney. And this is not the first time that he has been asked to pay to see documents.
Now Mooney asks why she should pay for information she says she needs to approve the authority’s monthly statements, prepared by an accountant. She says invoices are no longer attached to statements like they used to be.
While authority staff say their part-time hours make it difficult to fulfill Mooney’s many document requests, these invoices and other documents are routinely gathered by office staff each month and handed over to the accountant, who creates a spreadsheet that details each payment for “others.” “
“Charging a board member with money to find out what she’s supposed to approve is appalling,” said Mooney, who also lives in one of the authority’s properties, Flag Rock Village in Housatonic. “I should receive this information every month.”
The same goes for the board, she added.
At a recent authority meeting, Mooney said the worksheet should come with the standard financial statement, and board chairman James Mercer asked authority accountant Sue Honeycutt if, in the future, she could do it. Honeycutt said she could. The Eagle received a copy of the most recent worksheet upon request.
The authority, which manages more than 100 low-income, disabled and senior units at three sites, has over the past decade found itself embroiled in controversies ranging from sloppy administration to mold in the units and related prosecutions. More recently, much of the contention stems from disagreement over how information is handled.
Mooney, a longtime journalist who publishes the municipality-focused NEWSletter from her home but no longer writes about authority, continues to press management for details of her annual budget of around $ 680,000 and ‘other problems, often through relentless requests for public documents.
Mooney says she wouldn’t do it if all financial information was produced regularly. She alleges a lack of transparency – the very platform that got her elected to the board.
“We are not getting adequate information,” Mooney said. “We’re not getting anything on payroll, overtime, et cetera either.”
Board member John Grogan is also frustrated. He toasted Honeycutt during the meeting for exactly what was spent by “other admin,” who now has a balance of $ 21,549 and who Honeycutt says pays for things like utilities and office supplies. . That this is not detailed “is beyond the brain,” he said.
“I’m never comfortable with an accountant telling me it’s in the ‘other’ category,” Grogan said. “In a public domain like this, everything has to be taken into account. “
Honeycutt said everything needs to be taken into account, but the way this system works makes it difficult to quickly retrieve certain items.
Managing Director Tina Danzy invited Grogan to meet her with Honeycutt, but Grogan did not understand why specific questions about the article could not be answered on the spot.
“I am deeply upset and troubled that our accountants cannot detail [the items] in a few minutes, ”he said.
The owner of Honeycutt’s accounting firm told The Eagle it’s because the item list is too long to recite from memory – but Honeycutt receives all documents from the authority every month, including invoices. and check registers. Honeycutt then uses it to compile the monthly income sheet that the board then approves, said Teresa Ewald, whose Needham Heights, Fenton, Ewald & Associates PC-based company has kept the books of authority for over 30 years. .
Ewald explained that Honeycutt visits the authority every month and also has electronic access to the accounts.
“She makes sure everything is filed in the right place,” Ewald said. “It’s a routine – simple. We review everything with management.
Ewald, whose company has 95 housing authorities as clients – most of them in Massachusetts and includes all of Berkshire County – follows a revenue sheet template defined by the Department of Housing and Development. state community, which oversees subsidized housing. The state does not require cash flow disclosure, and the company has a disclaimer about this on every authority’s statement. The accountant simply compiles information.
“We are not auditors,” Ewald said, noting that a different kind of review was instituted when the state auditor stopped reviewing housing authorities. The accounting work for these agencies, she said, is “very prescribed”.