No updates in Kennett Township fraud investigation
● By Richard Gaw
While the Aug. 7 Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting revealed nothing in the way of updates about the continuing investigation of possible fraud in the township, it did vote in favor of a new payroll system, and informed those in attendance that the hiring of a new township manager could be finalized soon.
As he has been doing since May, board chairman Scudder Stevens began the meeting by reading from a prepared statement that gave the audience the latest information about the two investigations undertaken by the Chester County District Attorney's Office and a forensic auditor – hired by the township -- that are looking into suspicious transactions on township accounts that were first detected in late April.
“You’ll recall that I’ve reported at each meeting on both parts of the investigation: First, the District Attorney’s investigation into the criminal portion of this matter,” Stevens said. “Second, the forensic accountant’s investigation into determining how and to what extent actions were taken that were either improper or illegal. We continue to be in regular communication with those leading both investigations and both are proceeding normally and on schedule.
“There are no changes to report at this time,” Stevens added. “I regret that I cannot provide any more details than that right now.”
When Stevens was asked to provide more specifics as to what he meant by saying that the investigation was “proceeding normally and on schedule,” he said that the intention of the District Attorney's Office and the forensic auditor is to “move this thing along as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. The dates that we've heard are that this could be ready to come to fruition sometime in mid-September.”
That date was consistent with past updates and reports related to the investigation, but Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt amended Steven's predicted investigation timeline by saying that the investigation is “progressing.”
“As long as there is information available, the detectives are wanting to continue this investigation and we are all on track with that process,” Nolt said. “The time frame to finish depends on how far the investigation goes and where the information that is available leads to.”
In other township news, the board voted unanimously to approve a recommendation by interim township manager Alison Rudolf to shift the township's payroll manager to a service provider specializing in payroll service.
The vote enables the township to enter into an agreement with The Payroll Factory for an annual account not to exceed $3,000, or about $94 per pay period. Headquartered in Malvern, the locally owned service company has been providing payroll services for over 30 years to hundreds of companies throughout the United States.
The contract will first be applied to the township's fourth quarter payroll, beginning on Oct. 1.
Rudolf said that the new agreement will improve efficiency, increase internal controls, tighten security and incorporate new technology. Currently, the township uses QuickBooks to manage its accounting records and payroll, and while Rudolf said that the system is adequate for smaller entities, the township has increased the size of its staff in recent years, which has created more complex needs for the township's accounting and payroll system.
Rudolf surveyed 15 other municipalities in the area, and of them, 11 use an outside payroll service, she said.
“We have a very scant staff in the area of finance,” Rudolf said. “There was a very heavy involvement in the finance area by the former manager, and with the size of Kennett Township, the size of the budget and adding [investments in] EMS (Emergency Services) and open space, you're upwards of the $6 million to $7 million range, and you really need more support in managing your systems. This is a good first step in that direction, and it is something that is commonly done by other municipalities. It's a more robust system for payroll.”
Stevens agreed with Rudolf that contracting with the outside firm is a good idea.
“We continue to work diligently to ensure that the government of Kennett Township proceeds without interruption, and to take prudent steps to add both additional safeguards and security to all of our systems – financial and otherwise,” he said.
Stevens also detailed in his opening statement that the township has narrowed the field of candidates for its now vacant township manager, and said that the available position received 33 qualified applicants.
“We narrowed the field considerably and are working diligently to finalize our selection – including going through the later stages of due diligence, including a thorough background check,” Stevens said. “We believe it prudent to leave it to that right now. When we have the homework side of things done, we will have complete information to announce – including a timetable.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email email@example.com.