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Under the Radar: Trustees dress down Coloma supervisor

Longtime trustee to Burke: The days of excuses are over

ROCK FALLS – Coloma Township trustees on Tuesday minced no words to the township’s supervisor: Get the finances squared away. No excuses.

The township hasn’t turned in a financial report to the state comptroller since 2009. Because of that, the comptroller’s office recently fined Coloma more than $13,000.

At a special meeting Tuesday, Trustee Mary Ann Richardson told Supervisor Debra Burke that she had spoken with the township’s auditing firm, which has been working on Coloma’s audit for months.

The auditor gave the township a deadline of Dec. 13 to turn in such items as revenue numbers, Richardson said.

The firm, Wipfli, says if it doesn’t get the information by that time, it will have to suspend the audit until tax season ends in April, she said.

“Your biggest problem is you don’t follow up,” longtime Trustee Gene Jacoby told Burke, who started in 1981.

“Do we need to have special meetings every week to make sure you’re doing your job?” Jacoboy asked

“No, not if you give me help,” Burke responded. 

“You need to work more than 20 hours,” Trustee Peggy McFadden said before asking, “You’ve been here 30 years, and you don’t know how to do your job?”

“The days of excuses are over,” Jacoby said. “We need action. It’s just that simple.”

The township, he said, needs to turn in the reports to the comptroller as soon as possible.

“The state won’t send us any more money until we get these reports in,” he said.

Jacoby said all four trustees had called the comptroller’s office to figure out the situation with the fines. Burke, he said, has only sent letters and emails.

“I can’t believe you haven’t talked with them about this,” Jacoby said. “This is very serious.”

Trustee Walter Neal asked Burke about her efforts to hire local accountant Joel Downie to help with Coloma’s books. 

Burke said she had sent letters to Downie, but she hadn’t received a reply.

Neal said he was able to speak with Downie when he dropped by the accountant’s office. 

“Joel Downie is three blocks over. Just drive over there,” Neal said. 

Burke offered little in her defense. At one point, she blamed an employee for some problems with book entries. And she said she had turned in the 2010 report to the comptroller last week, although the agency’s website says the township hasn’t submitted its required documentation for the past 3 years. 

Trustees also have expressed frustration when Burke says she didn’t get certain pieces of mail and phone calls.

So they voted unanimously to have a Coloma employee log all letters and phone calls in a notebook, which Richardson brought to the meeting. 

“We want to review this book every month,” Richardson said.

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