Letter: Withholding payment on bills is not responsible, unfair to vendors

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Dear Editor,

As the chairman of the Budget Committee, I feel compelled to address recent criticisms aimed at our finance director and town administrator. The decision by the Town Council to withhold payment on bills was ill-advised and counterproductive. Micro-managing departments and administration only serves to hinder progress and is not in the best interest of our community.

It’s crucial to recognize the ramifications of such actions. By failing to pay bills promptly, we not only disrupt essential services but also unfairly burden our vendors who rely on timely payments. Late fees incurred as a result of this negligence only add to the financial strain on our town, a burden that could have easily been avoided with responsible fiscal management.

Criticism of blanket purchase orders (POs) is misguided. Such practices are common in municipal governance and are essential for ensuring the smooth operation of our town services. Those who decry this system would be the first to complain about potholes not being filled promptly due to delays in acquiring necessary materials.

Our finance director inherited a challenging situation and has been diligently working with limited resources to rectify past mistakes. It’s unfair to judge his performance without considering the complexities he faces. I have full confidence in our finance director’s abilities and am certain he will continue to serve our community admirably.

In times like these, it’s crucial for us to separate the in-fighting within the town council from leaking into the day-to-day operations and management of our town.

Sincerely,

Joey Sevigny

Joey Sevigny is chairman of the North Smithfield Budget Committee


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16 COMMENTS

  1. The town needs a new chairman of the budget committee who actually understands good financial internal controls. The financial process is in place as a check and balance so no one in the town makes an inappropriate payment to vendor. Just rubber-stamping payments is a waste of time and not an internal control. Do you not question your own personal bills when you see a variance or an issue or do you just pay the bill even though there is an error. For example, if I have a contractor building a new deck at my house and has a contracted price/cost of $15,000 and I received a bill for $18,000 would I not question the variance to the agreed upon price and not pay the bill until resolved. If I pay the bill with an error I would have very little recourse. Second a blanket PO is not best practices as states and businesses use blanket PO’s because departments are too lazy to create a discreate PO for each receipt of goods or services. Maybe it’s time for the town of North Smithfield to hire a financial consultant to establish world class financial processes and procedures and actually follow them instead of the usual backroom RI financial politics.

    • Obviously you don’t have a clue on how towns pay there bills. The bill first goes to the department the department head then confirms the bill is correct gives it a line item to be paid from then it goes to finance to be paid. Then to the council for final approval so bills are not rubber stamped they go thru a process. We have department heads for a reason like I stated the micro managing needs to stop.

      • I don’t usually like to call out gross mistakes, but I will. Please note that the approved expenditure file on the town’s website for 2023-2024 has the wrong net change percentage from budget-to-budget in the last column on the report and the heading is titled revenue instead of expenditure. The net change percentage should be between 2022-2023 versus 2023-2024 and not 2021-2022. I guess no one on the budget committee or the town council reviewed the file. What other mistakes are in the budget? If you had been working at a CPA firm and released financial statements with a gross mathematical error, you would be fired. CPA firms and financial professionals have a process of reviewing any financial documents released to clients or the public to make sure all the numbers and math are accurate.

        Obviously, you and the town lack financial skills and proper internal controls. So, you just trust the department heads and never question the numbers and reports and blindly approve invoices. Then why have the council approve the bills at all if the council is just approving without question!! Just one point of fact all the NS department managers have very little financial skills, knowledge, and ability to properly manage the budget, purchase orders, and invoices. This is why you have an experienced finance department and multiple levels of approval and yes if you never fix the process or reporting you are just rubber stamping. And we do need to micromanagement departments because when I see a 10% increase in salaries in the police department budget I am very concerned as a taxpayer that the police chief and town administrator is not being fiscally responsible.

  2. This is no different than the extremists in Washington DC attempting to shut down the government. Alves, Hamilton and Osier should be ashamed of themselves!

    Could they please show the public the communication they sent to the TA and finance director warning what action will be taken if requests were being ignored or denied.

    And as is if Ms. Hamilton has any leg to stand on. The finance department and tax issues were 100 times worse under her watch as Town Administrator. Perhaps someone should go find Jason Parmalee for some commentary.

    This stunt all but assures their tenures coming to an end next election cycle!

    • The difference between Mrs Hamilton and Mr Zwolenki is that Mrs Hamilton replaced department heads who couldn’t handle the job. Mr Zwolenski hires unqualified individuals and has his minions defend the unqualified appointee by blaming the previous finance director or claiming the new hire inherited a challenging situation. “Inherited a challenging situation” is code for “lacks the appropriate education and relevant work experience and is in way over his head”.

      I remind residents that the previous Finance Director worked for the town for several years and under the supervision of two Town Administrators, Mr Ezovski and Mr Zwolenski. She left her position as the Town’s Finance Director of her own free will, to except a higher paying job and I’ve heard she was promoted within her first year.

      Don’t be fooled.

      • Hey Clifford, the Burriville Police station is $18 million. How about them apples? Your narrative of “facts” is nothing but half truths and out right lies. Anyone that has not caught on yet is walking around with there eyes closed.

        • Hey John, did you know they increased the size of their footprint by over 2000 sq ft? Did you also know they added more features?

      • Do residents and taxpayers in North Smithfield remember the Abategate fiasco back in 2014? A look back (as reported by Sandy in 2015):

        https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/one-year-later-abatement-report-details-cause-of-north-smithfield-tax-problems/article_21ac2fce-c195-5a7a-8ae5-eb87f74cd497.html

        And who was the Town Administrator back then? None other than current Town Council member Paulette Hamilton. And how long had she known about the issues in the Tax Assessor’s office? I wrote the following June 2015: “Mr. Lombardi cites everything from poor record keeping and lack of internal controls, to state retention laws not being followed, to minimal oversight and leadership. Simply put, it isn’t a reach to say North Smithfield’s Tax Assessor’s office was dysfunctional at best, and awareness of that dysfunction was known at the highest level of town management (that is, the town administrator) since at least April 2013, when Town Administrator Hamilton received a “heads up” email from former Tax Assessor Tammy Boss (an email that included the inflammatory words “concerned” and “worry”, dated April 30, 2013).”

        I remind readers that Paulette Hamilton had been in office for over four years at that point, and hired those in charge. By your logic, Mr. Clifford – and considering your finger-pointing at TA Zwolenski – was that debacle, under her watch, not hers?

        And who was the Chairman of the NS Budget Committee at that time?
        Oh yeah – Michael Clifford.

        Don’t be fooled.

        • It’s great to see the good old boys club is back in action, Zwolenski, Beauregard, and their lap dog Guertin.

          • Vs Clifford “The Big NS watchdog” and his pack of poodles(BM, MCC and others) ?

            Toddlers resort to emotional outbursts when they know they are in the wrong.

            • Yes I agree that a certain person on the council has and is well documented with their outbursts, or hissy fits that some might call them. That same person can’t even take criticism and immediately goes to calling people’s bosses. They also don’t know how to respond to emails. So yes, I agree with you SV, toddlers do lash out when they don’t know how to process emotions.

              • Yawn…. Your “schtick” is getting old. No one takes you seriously with your nonsense rants, including your fellow “poodles”.

                • I wish their behavior would change so it wasn’t the same “schtick” and it could be about other more important things, yet here we are. I mean 1st amendment violations are pretty serious to me, which according to the Supreme Court I’m in the right and they are very wrong. There’s also the zero tolerance item of sexual harassment/assault and nothing getting done until it went public, that’s a pretty important item. Yet, they continue to throw hissy fits and we wind up back here. Such a shame, sad even. What’s worse is that people defend their hissy fits and their inactions on these items as “good for the town”, when it in fact hinders.

        • Tony, let’s not forget the Nike scandal voted in favor by council president Beauregard, Council Vice President Paul Zwolenski, and Councilwoman Claire O’Hara. Then the statement by John B “I was a State Trooper for twenty-five years. This gives me a perspective that is unique from the general population.”

          We would all agree the John Beauregard perspective is unique. So let’s not do it and finally have some fiscal responsibility.

  3. Thank you for pointing out the need for responsible fiscal management, something that’s been lacking from previous councils. It’s needed now more than ever, especially with all the projects wanted. Hypothetically how would you feel if that $18m police building overran by a few million and the town just said oh well? It’s good municipal practice, business practice, personal practice to fix errors once they’re found. To say just pay them, is irresponsible fiscal management.

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