Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

September 5, 2013

Debate lingers over future of town accountant post

A plan to reconfigure the town accountant’s job has hit a snag as the two selectmen on a subcommittee reviewing the position can’t agree on how to proceed.

Selectmen Dan Kowalski and Mary Lyman have been holding meetings for months to discuss how and whether to restructure the position given the impending retirement of the current accountant, Rodney Smith.

Smith, 63, who earns about $110,000 a year, is ending his career in November after 33 years on the job.

At their last subcommittee meeting, Lyman and Kowalski came to a stark conclusion.

“We don’t agree,” Kowalski said. “Mary wants to leave it as it is, and I want to redefine the accounting position and include new responsibilities.”

Lyman added, “We have studied this to death. I want to keep it the way it is because of the authority that goes with the position.”

What’s at stake, she said, is information and accountability.

Under the town charter, the Board of Selectmen appoints the town accountant. But while the town accountant is hired by selectmen, the position reports to the town manager in day-to-day operations.

Lyman said she wants to leave the current arrangement as is because she wants the town accountant to have access to the selectmen in case anything comes up that needs their attention.

“I want to make sure he has a direct line to us to make us aware of things,” she said. “If an issue comes up when (the accountant) has to report something to the selectmen, that person needs to feel supported to be able to shut something down.”

For example, she said, she believes large buyouts made to former employees in the past should have been reviewed by selectmen. But Smith, when asked, has told selectmen they weren’t informed about a particular buyout because “the town manager signed off on it.”

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