Cemetery group to conduct 15-year financial review
Cemetery group to conduct 15-year financial review
Restored iron gates in the northeast corner of Center Street Cemetery in Wallingford are seen Tuesday. The restoration of the gates in 2004 is part of a financial review sought by the president of the cemetery association.| Christopher Zajac / Record-Journal
April 24, 2014 11:37AM
By Andrew Ragali
WALLINGFORD — A certified public accountant will conduct a financial review of the Center Street Cemetery Association dating back 15 years, according to Peter Gouveia, the association’s president since June.
The review will be performed for free by someone who is unfamiliar with the association or local politics, Gouveia said, adding that he did not want to make the accountant’s name public. The decision to conduct the review was made during an executive board meeting last week.
“We are doing this so that we can lay to rest any questions, concerns or allegations,” Gouveia said.
The main goal, he added, is to “make sure the council, mayor and taxpayers are assured that all monies appropriated to the association are and will always be well spent.”
The cemetery is owned by the town, but through an agreement made in 1911, the association is responsible for its upkeep. The town provides the association with about $70,000 annually.
Results of the financial review will be made public, Gouveia said.
“If we have major expenses, we should have a contract,” he said. If the review turns up any glaring inconsistencies, “we’ll probably get an audit,” he said.
Gouveia replaced Jerry Farrell Jr. as the association’s president. Farrell said he has been a member of the association’s board since 1986. He began serving as association president at least as early as 1998, according to Record-Journal archives, though Farrell said he couldn’t recall exactly how long he had served as president.
Farrell said he is “absolutely certain” a financial review would show no wrongdoing on his part. First notice of the review came in an email from Gouveia on Friday, he said.
“I don’t understand why it needs to be done,” Farrell said.
Gouveia said the review isn’t being conducted to go after any one person. It serves a purpose, he said. “We don’t want to repeat any mistakes.”
Gouveia said that as president, his focus is not on what happened in the association’s past, but when something comes up, “I’m going to look into it. ...This is a new administration and I want to make sure everything is done properly.”
After an initial inspection of financial records, Gouveia said, there have been inconsistencies.
There are two specific expenses that are under review, he said.
Gouveia is questioning a $37,750 payment from the association “made to a local store” to install two gates at the cemetery in 2004. “The type of business that this store deals with does not seem to have anything to do with this business with the cemetery,” he said, though he declined to name the business or discuss details.
When association member John LeTourneau was asked if he knew about the expense, he said he was the recipient of the payment. LeTourneau owns Wallingford Lamp & Shade on Center Street and is also a town councilor.
LeTourneau said he has been involved in metal restoration work for years, and has performed projects in New York City and for a secret society at Yale University. In 2004, the cemetery’s century-old wrought iron gates were budgeted for repair, he said, and Farrell asked him to exercise his expertise and connections. With the payment, LeTourneau said, he brought in a specialist from West Haven Ironworks. LeTourneau also said he paid to have the gates sent to New York to be coated in metal and painted, and he paid contractors to install the gates.
“Every single bit of that was approved through meetings,” LeTourneau said. “I told the board at numerous meetings exactly what I was doing and exactly what was happening.”
Farrell said LeTourneau is an expert in restoration. The payment might have been made to Wallingford Lamp & Shade, he said, but that’s because LeTourneau doesn’t run a separate metal restoration business.
The other specific expense under review is money paid for a cemetery website that was never produced. Shortly after becoming president, Gouveia said, he was alerted to a $30 annual charge for ownership of the internet domain name centerstreetcemetery.org, which doesn’t lead to a website. The bill led Gouveia to discover that in 2006 the association paid $4,000 for development of a website, but “it doesn’t seem any services were ever provided,” he said.
At the time, the association was looking to develop a website that would act like Google Earth, allowing visitors to use aerial images to inspect the cemetery, Farrell said. But while the technology exists for such a website now, the initial work took place a decade ago and there were technical issues, he said. The $4,000 was paid for the hourly services of a technology company, but the project never got off the ground, Farrell said.
Farrell said that under his leadership the association held annual meetings and there was always a treasurer’s report on how money was spent. The report could be questioned and was, he said. Once the report was approved, the following year’s budget would be formed. Farrell said all expenses were budgeted, and could have been called into question during annual meetings.