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Chester County Press

Kennett Township’s 2020 audit reflects activities of former manager

03/22/2022 03:59PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

There is a common local sentiment that supports the belief that the most turbulent chapter in Kennett Township history finally ended when former manager Lisa Moore was sentenced to state prison last October for the crime of stealing more than $3.2 million from the township.

The Board of Supervisors’ March 16 meeting cracked that chapter open again.

In a presentation by Maillie certified public accountant Christopher Herr and township Human Resources and Finance Director Amy Heinrich, the township unveiled the results of an audit that looked at the township’s books from 2019, with particular emphasis on “Investigation into Activities of Prior Township Manager.”

“We are digging into every individual transaction and I will say that it is a very thorough audit,” Herr said. “We audited about 80 percent of expenses, which is very high for an audit, and it’s about continuing to provide coverage and comfort, given some of the things that had happened [in the township] in the years prior.”

Board Chairman Richard Leff said that the audit was delayed for two years because of COVID-19 and the challenge of untangling the township’s books during 2019 -- the year that the full investigation into Moore’s activities began.

Herr said that the township’s new Sage Intaact accounting software system “is working the way it should be,” but said the investigation into the township’s 2019 financial picture revealed invoices without indicated approvals, transactions that were done without administrative support, checks signed by stamp, bills that were paid twice and several checks that were only signed by one check signer, journal entries with no record of review and approval, and no documentation of the township salary system.

Throughout Maillie’s audit, they continued to see a segregation of duties in the township’s system of financial accounting, indicating that “one person had the control of the whole flow,” Herr said. “Our concern was that one person was getting the check in the mail, entering the check into the [township’s] accounting system, depositing the check and doing the banking. They were controlling the whole process which is never a good thing.”

As part of a guilty plea deal arranged by Moore, her attorney and prosecuting attorneys from the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, Moore was sentenced by the Hon. David F. Bortner of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County on Oct. 4, 2021 and taken into custody on five counts: Theft by Deception, Dealing in Unlawful Proceeds, Forgery, Tampering with Public Records and Access Device Fraud. As part of her sentencing, Moore was also required to pay restitution costs back to the township in the amount of $3,249,453 – the sum she stole during that nearly eight-year period from 2013 to 2019.

Herr said Maillie began to see many improvements to the township’s 2020 financial system of checks and balances, and indicated that the audit reflected a more evenly divided flow of approvals. Heinrich said that all financial data for the township is now easily available to all supervisors.

“While we are still validating some liabilities, they are relatively immaterial, and we expect the 2021 audit to proceed much more quickly,” Heinrich wrote in her introduction to the 2020 audit, which is available on the township’s website

Board member Geoff Gamble said that the board had a recent meeting with Herr and Heinrich to review Maillie’s audit, and called it “extremely impressive.”

“Obviously, 2019 and 2020 were transitional years, and as we fully move into the Sage system which will allow us a much more real time penetration into [our accounting], it is obviously critical that this had to be a very good audit, and this was,” he said.

Other township business

The board unanimously voted in favor of drafting an ordinance to create and authorize a township coat of arms and crest, which will be developed by a graphic artist.

Gamble provided a status report on a memorandum that he first introduced at the board’s Jan. 19 meeting, when he called for creative input from township residents in developing a coat of arms and seal that would incorporate various elements – historic and symbolic – from the township. At the meeting, the board agreed that the primary symbol should include the American Sycamore tree, which is found frequently throughout the township.

After reviewing more than 40 design options and receiving free advice on heraldic design from the President of the American Heraldry Society and several other experts and input from nearly 100 responses from residents, Gamble presented his fellow board members with four design options to choose from.

After discussion and review, Gamble, Board Chair Richard Leff and Supervisor Scudder Stevens chose a design that infuses illustrations of three Sycamore leaves; crops representative of agriculture, including mushrooms; the Old Kennett Meeting House as it looked in 1877; flags of the Colonial United States and Great Britain, representing the Battle of the Brandywine; and a rising sun indicating “a new dawn of freedom” for those who escaped during the Underground Railroad movement that came through the township. The circular-shaped coat of arms will also include “Kennett Township” and “1704,” the year the township was incorporated.

By a vote of 2-1 – with Gamble voting against the motion -- the board authorized the signing of a Multimodal Transportation Fund Grant Reimbursement Agreement for Highway and Bridge Projects, as proposed by PennDOT.

Township Manager Eden Ratliff said that the agreement will apply to the construction of a roundabout at the Five Points intersection in the township. He said that the agreement specifies that the project is to be completed within the next three years.

The board approved the appointment of Greg Gurev to the township’s Environmental Advisory Council, to replace Mary Beth Oberg, for a term that will expire Dec. 31, 2023. The board also approved the appointment of Whitney Hoffman to the township’s Trails & Sidewalks Committee as its land advisory committee liaison, replacing the vacancy left by the resignation of Tim Peterson.

Following the approval, Gamble said criticized “the byzantine complexity” of township volunteer committees, and called for the township to review ways to streamline their numbers and the overlap of their efforts.

“Not only do we have committees, we have liaisons between these committees that are all somehow handcuffed by ordinances to certain people in certain positions,” Gamble said.

While he agreed in principle with Gamble, Stevens said the committees are a valued component of the township.

“They all perform very important services, and they help to take a certain amount of the load off of the staff, and allow volunteers to perform their services,” Stevens said.

“I don’t mean to question the value of these committees,” Gamble responded. “I am a little frustrated at our self-handcuffing of ordinances that restrict for various reasons who can be on what committee. I think that’s what we need to look at so we can un-encumber ourselves and pick the best people for the best jobs.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].