Reporting Jim Armstrong
LYNN (CBS) – With such a mild winter, no one expected the city of Lynn to blow through its entire ice and snow removal budget.
But the Department of Public Works (DPW) ended up overspending by $138,165. The grand total ostensibly spent on snow removal for this winter wound up being $923,327. That’s well above the $785,162 the city had allocated.
Like every city, Lynn overspends its snow budget every year. But this year’s mild winter uncovered a secret. The city’s DPW Commissioner used the snow budget to pay salaries.
“We don’t have the exact number of employees [he paid]“, said Lynn’s Chief Financial Officer Rich Fortucci. “The dollar amount is approximately $500,000.”
As far as Lynn officials knew, that $500,000 in salaries was coming out of the the DPW’s general budget.
But city leaders now say DPW commissioner Jay Fink took that money out of the city’s ice and snow budget – improperly.
When asked why Fink would have done that, Fortucci replied, “I’m not sure, I’m not sure. If the former commissioner were here perhaps he could help us with that.”
The trouble is, Fink quit about three weeks ago and moved to Florida. The city has not been able to get in touch with him since.
“Upon discovering it, [we took] immediate corrective action for next year so this does not happen again,” offered Fortucci, but he was unable to say for how long this “problem” could have been happening.
In theory, that half-million-dollar discrepancy could have been on the books for years and years. It would have always been hidden, because the city always goes over-budget on snow removal. WBZ asked if city leaders were going to look back and do any audits to see if that had, in fact, happened. Fortucci says that probably would not offer any useful information.
“I’m sitting here today and I am paid to do a job going forward, to manage the finances of the city, not to look back on what might have been a decade ago,” he said.
“I’m not sure that we’ll conduct an investigation,” Fortucci continued. “I can’t look back; I’ve got to look forward. Again, corrective action [was] taken and we will move forward with this and make sure that the practice will not happen again.”
Fortucci says there is no connection between Fink’s decision to quit and the discovery of this discrepancy. He describes Fink as an honest employee who had his full trust.