November 20, 2008
The Chief responds:
Letter: Forced changes in elderly fund no improvement
To the editor:
This letter is in response to your editorial of Nov. 17. I would like to set the record straight for the second time with your paper. I previously came to your office and explained the process of how the Elderly Affairs Department and the Police Departments Donation/Equipment fund worked. I will again advise you of the process that has been in place since 1994.
You mention in your editorial the word “transparency” of the funds we received and how those funds were spent. Let’s set that record straight. Whenever the Police Department wanted to use funds from our Donation/Equipment fund, the selectman were required to hold a public hearing during their regularly scheduled meeting. During this posted public hearing, I advised the selectmen exactly why we wanted to take funds out of this account. The selectmen then opened the public hearing to the public to see if they had any questions on how or why these funds were being requested. At the conclusion of that public hearing, the selectmen took a vote to authorize the withdrawal of these funds.
Once a receipt was obtained for the items requested, that receipt was turned into the town’s bookkeeper and she then produced a check. That check was sent to the Board of Selectmen for another approval prior to the funds being expended. That is open and full transparency. At least once a month, a resident would come to the bookkeeper’s office to look over all of the receipts that were paid out of the Police Departments Donation/equipment fund.
That again is full and open transparency.
Now let me tell you how the new approved system is working. All funds received into the new Atkinson Police Charitable Fund are no longer open to scrutiny by the public, because, under direction of the attorney general’s office, we were required to open a nonprofit charitable trust that is not open to public scrutiny under the right to know law. We are not required to advise anyone how these donations are going to be spent, or provide any receipts for these expenditures. This account no longer has full transparency as it did prior to the separation.
You also stated that I was the only person who decided how these donations were to be spent. That was not true. Any senior that needed assistance only had to ask the Police Department and we then provided them with the assistance they requested. Now that these funds are under the control of the charitable fund, we will adhere to the state laws governing a nonprofit charitable fund. Under the guidance of the attorney general’s office, we set up a board of directors. They are Philip Consentino, president; William Anderson, vice president; Robert Neill; treasurer, Roger Culliford, secretary; and Richard Magoon, recording secretary. All of the directors are members of the Atkinson Police Department’s Elderly Affairs Division. Most seniors would rather go without than to go to the Town Hall and fill out a 15-page life history form just to get a one-time assistance with an oil delivery. That is why so many seniors know that they can always come to the Police Department and get the help that they need. So nothing really has changed except we are no longer transparent.
There will no longer be any public hearings advising the residents of how these donations will be spent. You will no longer be allowed to look over all of the receipts and slips indicating what these funds were used for. Remember, this new charitable trust was set up by the N.H. attorney general’s Charitable Trust Division. We did not request to take the transparency away from the public; this was done against our wishes.
As far as separating the Police Department from the Elderly Affairs Department, this is a lose-lose situation for the town. We now have to turn over the full responsibility of the two old police cruisers and the new wheelchair van to the Elderly Affairs Department.
Who is going to maintain these vehicles? Who is going to pay for all of the repairs? All of these expenses were paid through the Police Department’s Donation/Equipment Fund. This can no longer be accomplished, because these vehicles are no longer under the control of the Police Department. Who takes the calls from seniors looking for rides to the doctors? Who houses all of the medical supplies? Who helps seniors when they have a problem with Medicare or a contractor that did not complete a job? That’s right, the Police Department. The Elderly Affairs program cannot provide the services to our seniors that we do without the interaction of the Police Department.
Can you tell me is this new separation and new charitable fund going to help the residents of Atkinson or is it now going to reduce or completely dissolve the Elderly Affairs program? Please get your facts straight prior to printing your editorials.
PHILIP V. CONSENTINO
Director of elderly affairs
President of the Atkinson Police