Months of missing records. Years of missing bank statements and deposit records. Incomplete data in town records. Ownership updates missing. Impact fees not assessed where they should have been, or assessed for some categories but not others.
No evidence that some fees were collected. Checks sitting uncashed in town offices, now too old to do so. Missing evidence of deposits. Repayment plans negotiated for some fees and not others.
Insufficient monitoring of the six-year rule for using impact fees. Transfers of impact fees not based on council orders or school budgets.
Fees expended on management directive, rather than council order or legislative direction.
The above are among the forensic audit’s findings of how the Town of Londonderry handled impact fees from 1994-2012.
As the Planning Board prepares to update its impact fee ordinance to comply with state law – always a good thing – we hope some town entity will be looking at how such a mess was allowed to occur in the first place and to continue for almost two decades, and how to prevent its reoccurrence.
While the town reimbursed residents and developers when errors were discovered, there are likely others who will never be reimbursed or whose records will never be found. But more importantly, residents deserve to know – and to have a say in – what kind of checks and balances will be put in place to make sure such a travesty does not occur again.
The impact fee fiasco went on through two town managers and two finance directors. It led to a Superior Court ruling that cites town misfeasance. Londonderry is a sophisticated community with highly paid professional staff, not a rural backwater where volunteer officials may not have the technical skills or time to avoid such a mess.
So we’d like to see a committee established to examine what happened, how it could have been allowed to continue for almost 20 years, and exactly what will be done to make sure something similar does not happen again with the town books – and residents’ money.
We’d like to see that committee composed of people with expertise in what they will be looking at, rather than just the usual array of town officials and volunteers who want to close the books on an unpleasant period of town history. No one with an ax to grind, or with a stake in smoothing things over, should be involved.
We don’t need to look for someone to be the villain of this mess. We need instead to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again.