Financial inexperience and mismanagement has made much worse than neighboring towns. The Town of Fairfield made news when their pension fund lost about $42 million in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Westport’s retiree benefit liability dwarfs Fairfield’s Madoff losses but it barely registers a blip in Westport.
On March 21, 2011 Westport.Patch.com reported: “.” And that was before uncovering the magnitude of which is upwards of $125 million. When this liability is added to our current Town debt, Westport will have now have the highest debt per person in Connecticut in the highest debt State in the entire country, in the worst economy in generations. Not our idea of being #1.
It begins with Simply stated, the firm was not qualified. They did not know what questions to ask or even understand that the employee census was understated by at least 400 town employees.
It continued with Town officials waiting 4 years before evaluating new retiree benefit accounting rules. Numerous Town budgets were approved, contracts were negotiated and commitments made by Westport without any elected official knowing the full extent of this deficit. In essence, the Town is spending money it doesn’t have.
After discovering that there was a retiree benefit discrepancy, it was not reported in a timely manner. The dollar amount of the deficit was under reported and then changed again. Today the retiree benefit deficit is anyone’s guess, somewhere between $50 million and $125 million and could go higher. We still don’t know. Is this how you want your town run?
This completely self-inflicted wound was made worse by dysfunctional town management with little defined processes and no financial controls. The problem was deepened by the lack of political will of the Democrats in power to challenge others within the same political party. This financial blunder demonstrates the damage that one-party rule can inflict on the Town. There are no “checks and balances” in place to ensure that politicians are held accountable. Westport deserves better.
You don’t have to wait until November 2013 for the First Selectman election to send the message that this is unacceptable. The current Democrat leadership has controlled the Board of Finance for 14 years. Westport’s current financial problems have happened during their stewardship. They have had plenty of time to make large strides in improving the Town’s processes and financial situation but have taken only baby steps; and only after prodding by Republicans. We can’t afford to keep paying the tab for others’ financial inexperience and mismanagement. Our elected officials should be as careful with Westport’s money as you are with your own.
Please consider voting for the entire Republican slate on November 8th
to restore “checks and balance” and to let the First Selectman know that you
have had enough.
Westport Republican Town Committee