By Michael Howell
Stevensville Treasurer Stephanie Mapelli, who will be stepping down at the end of this year, took Council member Jim Crews to task for proposing that a special audit be performed following the recent resignation Mayor Gene Mim Mack and the impending departure of Mapelli.
During the public comment session of the October 22 session of the Stevensville Town Council, Councilor Crews said that he wanted to propose two items to be placed on the next agenda. One, a proposal to consolidate the Town Clerk and Treasurer positions and have the Deputy Clerk position include training in the Treasurer’s duties, had been submitted to Mayor Paul Ludington and was on the amended agenda. The second proposal was not on that evening’s agenda.
Specifically addressing the Mayor, Crews said, “Given the resignations of the Mayor and the Treasurer, wouldn’t it be a prudent option to have a Special Audit performed?”
Treasurer Stephanie Mapelli responded, saying, “With these two statements Council member Crews stoops to new lows in making character assassinations against me. I will not be silent in the face of these accusations. First, to what problem does he refer?” She noted that since coming on board she had had to catch up on a three-year back log of past due audits. She brought them current and received high marks from the auditors. She also caught up on three years of past due financial reports to the state, a situation that was threatening the town’s funding.
“Those aren’t problems,” she said, “those are solutions that I brought to the table and solutions have been a hallmark of my tenure here.” She said the number one reason to request a special audit is to discover fraud.
“What have I ever done that gives you cause to think you need a Special Audit? What is it about the town’s past audits that would hint that a Special Audit is a direction we should pursue? As we speak I am preparing for the annual audit and preparing a financial report to the state, both of which are comprehensive. Cite one thing to hang your hat on that demands the town engage in a special audit.”
She recited a list of her accomplishments as treasurer that included new fiscal policies, a capital improvement fund, an updated personnel policy and an annual fair and equitable performance evaluation process.
“I suggest you hang your hat on these instead,” she said.
She said that she had not resigned, but had submitted a retirement date effective at the end of the year.
“Council members have a legislative responsibility to the people who elect them,” said Mapelli. “However, they have neither the right nor the responsibility to hurl character assassinations at me or any town employee.”
Later in the meeting Crews said that his proposal was not, and was never meant to be, a character assassination. He said he was just doing due diligence. He said it was not just to protect the organization but to protect the people who were leaving as well.
“When the public finds out people are leaving they get scared,” he said. He said it was not an agenda item, it was just a question.
“It’s just doing your job,” he said. “It’s just doing due diligence.” He said if he was doing anything wrong the council should try him and censure him immediately.
“It did come off as offensive to Stephanie,” said Council member Bill Perrin. “It was the way you did it and what you said. There’s no way around it. It was offensive to her. That’s not creating calm. That’s not working with people. It doesn’t come across that way.”
“I sincerely apologize then,” said Crews. “I’m new on the Council and I’m still learning.”
Perrin said that the Town gets an annual audit and conducting a Special Audit is not a normal process.
“I thought my remarks were being made only to the Mayor and no one else,” said Crews. “I asked if it was prudent.”
“And you thought that it was OK if it was only to the Mayor?” asked Perrin.
“I apologize,” said Crews.
“Not to me,” said Perrin.
“When I see her I will apologize to her,” said Crews. “If it’s alright with the Mayor.”
Mayor Ludington said it would be fine.