Millbury Selectmen, Council on Aging Face Off Over Report

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Millbury Board of Selectmen members, town officials and auditors, as well as members of the Council on Aging, met concerning the Business Operations Review report of July. Photo Credit: Steve Balestrieri

MILLBURY, Mass. — A July report urging changes in the way the Millbury Council on Aging handles its finances was the impetus behind a meeting Thursday night between the COA and the Millbury Board of Selectmen.

An auditing firm in July found many instances of co-mingling between the Council on Aging and the Friends of Millbury Seniors Inc., an independent, not-for-profit organization that has members who also serve on the council.

Senior Center Director Judith O’Connor was suspended at the time the report came out on charges of improper political activity during the town elections in April. She didn’t comment at the time because she hadn’t seen the report.

But Thursday night, she, along with other COA members, were there to defend not only the council but the Friends of the Millbury Seniors as well. Stephen Walinsky Jr., speaking for the Friends and the COA, talked at length about what the Friends do for the Senior Center and how they, and not the town, pay for the majority of programs.

His voice rising, Walinsky said, “I ask any of you (Board of Selectmen members) if you are working on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving,” he asked. “Because the Senior Center is, and we’ll be providing hot meals and companionship for seniors when the surrounding communities have their programs closed that day.”

Town Manager Bob Spain answered Walinsky by stating that the Woburn CPA firm (Roselli, Clark and Associates) that was in attendance Thursday night did not do an audit, but a Business Operations Review.

“Some things can’t continue,” Spain said, referencing the report.

“We find problems and try to fix them" he said, "but I take offense to words that I was conducting a ‘witch hunt' on anyone.” 

That caused many residents crowded into the conference room to jeer openly. The demonstration was stopped by Selectmen Chairman E. Bernard Plante.

The town and the CPA's stated that the business practices, mainly the way the Senior Center handles its vouchers, needs to be changed to fall more in line with Massachusetts General Laws.

“I can’t see why we can’t work together on this,” Plante said. Spain added, “This doesn’t mean that things can’t be fixed. ... We can’t fix the past, but we can fix the future.”

Selectmen Brian Stowell suggested the board would meet at any time in the future to help work out the issues spelled out in the July report and whatever other issues need to be addressed.

Both sides agreed to meet in about a month, with an exact date is to be determined.

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