Norwalk’s Oak Hills needs better bookkeeping, director says

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – An allegation that bills for Norwalk’s golf course were not paid in a timely manner has some validity, interim Oak Hills Executive Director Shelly Guyer indicated last week.

Former Oak Hills Park golf course superintendent Tommy Vorio said in a recent email that the course had incurred many finance charges over the summer because bills were not paid in a timely manner. There were “bills for park maintenance that range from 60-120 days past due,” he said, adding that. “Several vendor relationships have been lost as a result.”

Guyer indicated that was true.

“The volume of bills that come in to a golf course during the course of a season are enormous,” Guyer said. “There might be some changes over the winter that might tighten that up. We are redefining the administrative assistant’s job here. In fact, I don’t have one at the moment.”

Vorio sent an email to Common Council members in early December saying, “I have never seen a public entity (Oak Hills Park Authority) with more secrets and attempts to hide pertinent information from the public at large.” He resigned at the Dec. 20 authority meeting.

Vorio’s allegations include the accusation that an ad hoc driving range committee had held meetings with no notice to the public.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” Guyer said.

Guyer would not comment on other allegations from Vorio.

The requirements for a new administrative assistant will be more rigorous, Guyer said.

“We’re going to be bringing somebody on that has stronger finance and bookkeeping skills,” he said. “The original job description didn’t make that enough of a requirement for the job. I believe that we need somebody that has those strong skills that will help eliminate those types of problems.”

Members of the public have called for an audit.

“We are audited every year by a CPA,” Guyer said. “I don’t know why people are calling for audits. He does an in-depth audit every year, and he issues an audit letter every year. This audit question is not valid.”

Guyer was the president of the golf course’s men’s association when he was asked to take the executive director job last February following the resignation of former Executive Director Vinny Grillo, a friend. Grillo’s last day was Dec. 31, 2011.

“I was happily retired. I don’t need to be doing this,” Guyer said. “I don’t know if they’ll find anyone else at what they’re paying.”

His low salary is one of the reasons the authority was able to pay the city back $218,000 last September, according to an article in The Hour.

“I’ll be here for one more year at least,” Guyer said. “I just want to get this place going in the right direction. … Since I have been here we are trying to work more closely with the Board of Estimate, try to keep them in the loop with what is going on here.”


3 responses to “Norwalk’s Oak Hills needs better bookkeeping, director says”

  1. Oldtimer

    Any CPA, or even a good accountant, can audit the books and submit a letter that basically says the book keeping procedures comply with current accepted practice, and the arithmetic is accurate.
    That does not look at all the sources of income and all the expenses and see if those numbers are reasonable. For example, a too large expense item for floor maintenance supplies could raise questions as to why are we buying so much floor wax when the floors are waxed by a contractor who brings his own wax ? A simple, look at the math, audit will not generally pick up such inconsistencies, while a forensic audit will.
    There are lots of reasons to oppose a forensic audit and most are not valid, unless there is something going on you don’t want exposed, or somebody is saying “we can’t afford a forensic audit” and claiming the auditor’s expense would be prohibitive.
    In my opinion, the City probably has the in-house talent for thorough forensic audits, within the police dept, now.

  2. Suzanne

    I so appreciate the specificity you have supplied, “Oldtimer” in describing exactly what a forensic audit is and why it is needed in this case.

    Remember when there used to be the Big 8 accounting firms? No longer and in large part (though I realize it is more complicated) because the audits they were conducting looked at arithmetic and accounting compliance while the companies they were auditing were involved in all kinds of malfeasance.

    I think many suspect this is part of the problem at Oak Hills. That and incompetence. I think what is getting mixed up in all of this, besides the papers and buried bills on the absent administrative assistant’s desk, is that just because you play golf, doesn’t mean you can run a golf course. Clearly, that is what is happening hear.

    Mr. Virgulak and Oak Hills Park Authority, submit your books to a forensic audit. You might learn something.

  3. Oldtimer

    That “learning something” may be exactly what they are afraid of. There were the same objections raised when a forensic audit was proposed to find out about the “shortfall” at BOE and the idea was effectively blocked, but an audit of some kind was promised at some indefinite time in the future. Those of us not on the inside cannot help but wonder.
    If I was a betting man, I would bet a forensic audit will be blocked at Oak Hills, unless, and until, some whistleblower makes specific detailed criminal charges that cannot be ignored.

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