Vernon hires investigators to review town center spending

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:22

    Vernon — The Vernon Township council took its first solid step toward restoring the public’s faith in the much-battered town center project last Tuesday, when it voted to move forward with a forensic audit of the monies already put towards the project. “I feel it is important that the concerns as they relate to the town center be closely examined and the lingering questions put to rest. As such, it is both reasonable and responsible to conduct an audit in an in-depth manner vs. just a scanning or looking at documents,” said Councilman Richard Carson. “If we fail to do this, the town center questions will continue and will plague not just this council but future councils as well.” While Councilmember Valerie Seufert concurred with Carson, Councilman Gary Grey had other concerns about the audit. “I know how sensitive an issue it is, but what scares me though is that this could just be the start, cost-wise. It would be very easy for a consultant to find something to continue with and to grow with. That’s what really scares me — that this could just be the start, and I hope that no one believes that this is the beginning and end of it.” He did, however, agree with the intent of the audit, and the council agreed that the process would be monitored closely. The contract, awarded to The Forensic Accounting Group of Parsippany, will cover a full investigation into the allocation of the approximately $9 million that has currently been spent on the town center project. This will include an investigation into the $1 million of overruns that were signed off on by former township manager Don Teolis. Teolis, who was arrested for second degree misconduct after defrauding the township out of approximately $14,000, allowed the overruns without informing the council, in direct violation of procedure. This impropriety, discovered by the acting manager who followed him, led to the investigation of the town center project overall. In other news The township council approved the revised schedule of increases in fees for the building department. The measure was rejected the first time it came before the board when the council complained that the increases were too severe, given the economy. The fees have been decreased, but even so, Mayor Austin Carew voted against the ordinance again, but this time the rest of the council voted for it. The council also approved a $20 fee for dropping off bulky waste during the town’s fall heavy garbage disposal day.