NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s town clerk says it didn’t take him long to uncover the suspicious numbers that led to a Norwalk Police investigation of a City Hall employee about a year after he took office – the discovery was immediate.
Rick McQuaid said the installation of a new system led him to discover discrepancies that indicate that “thousands of dollars” are missing, money that disappeared over a period of years.
People who wonder what took him so long to find it have been asking the wrong question, he said.
The right one: “If it had been going on for years, why did I find it so fast?”
The criminal investigation burst into public awareness with a story in The Hour announcing that the “town clerk’s office is under investigation for the possible mishandling of money.” McQuaid said many people jumped to the conclusion that he had done something wrong, when in fact one employee is suspected of being responsible for the missing money. That person has been suspended.
“I feel bad for all the staff members, what they have had to go through because of somebody slanting the way of reporting it, sensationalizing it,” he said.
A source said the employee “is being paid while being investigated, and just returned from a Florida vacation — imagine — while they hammer out the details.”
After The Hour story broke just 45 minutes ahead of a report on NancyOnNorwalk, McQuaid subsequently released a statement explaining the genesis of the investigation. “I noted certain abnormalities that suggested that at certain times revenue was not being reported as required; my investigation indicated that the revenue reporting issue had been occurring prior to my election,” he said.
McQuaid said it didn’t really take him a year to discover the bookkeeping irregularities that merited police attention, although a glance at the calendar would lead people to that conclusion.
There have been many duties absorbing his attention in an unusually busy year in an unusually busy office, which contains records covering births, deaths and everything in between, he said.
“That is one of the things that people are kind of missing here,” he said. “I came in Dec. 1. We had four elections last year, including one being a presidential election. I also had to go to town clerk certification school and learn how to do certain things.”
That certification includes six modules of learning and takes 2½ years, he said.
He said he found the problem because he began using a new system with new equipment. He had been using the system out in the main area of the office, at the counter, because the new system hadn’t been installed in his office yet. He didn’t have the old system in there either; there was no point in installing it with a new system coming in, he said.
When the new system was installed, he found it right away and reported it.
“That’s not the side anybody has been spinning,” he said. “If it has been going on for as many years as they say, you should be a little happier that I found it in the short time that I did.”
Former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel said he had signed a contract for new equipment in the spring of 2011. The first phase of installation was in July 2011. “It was planned to be phased in,” he said.
When he left it hadn’t yet been installed on the cashiering system.
McQuaid said the investigation is progressing; in between tending to the needs of the public he is working on coming up with a dollar figure for detectives.
“I’ve been here all my life,” he said. “People know I am not going to steal anything, but if I find something I’m not going to sit back and let it just go by. I can’t do that. That wouldn’t be fair.
I got elected to run this office, and if part of running this office is not letting stuff go by, that’s what I’m going to do.”
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