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Accountability: A Study in Contrast

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On May 29th, the Town of Hopkinton missed payroll, affecting the paychecks of approximately 400 Town employees.

Per a statement from interim town manager Elaine Lazarus, “There were multiple errors in Munis which resulted in Munis deleting our entire payroll file.”

But Ms. Lazarus didn’t stop there. On Tuesday night, during the town manager’s report, unprompted, she provided the Select Board with a detailed explanation of:

  • The events that led to the errors and the payroll being missed
  • The exemplary performance of the three dedicated Town finance employees who worked through the night to manually re-key the lost information so all Town employees would be paid the following day
  • The steps she is taking to evaluate and possibly replace the Munis software system.

That is accountability. That is leadership.

Contrast that with most of the previous Select Board’s repeated attempts to avoid explaining in any way whatsoever why the survivor’s personally identifying information (PII) was not redacted before being released to the public in the John Porter child rape case (with the sole exception being the former Select Board Chair, Muriel Kramer, who pushed for accountability and transparency).

It’s now been 139 days since the Hopkinton Police Department, as authorized by Hopkinton Police Chief Joseph Bennett, released the transcript of Sgt. Timothy Brennan’s interview from the Kroll Report – in the process, doxxing the courageous woman who alleged that she was raped three times by Porter when he was the School Resource Officer at Hopkinton High School.

Her testimony, along with the testimony of Sgt. Brennan, to a Middlesex County Grand Jury resulted in Porter being indicted on three counts of child rape.

It has been 136 days since the transcript of that interview with the accuser’s PII was taken down, but only after it was published over two days by multiple media outlets, as well as shared through Select Board Member Amy Ritterbusch’s social media accounts to thousands of followers.

It’s been 135 days since Ms. Kramer, speaking on behalf of the entire Select Board and Town Government, said at the time:

“Doing the work and making sure this never happens again is foremost on our minds, as well as rightly holding ourselves and others accountable as needed in meaningful ways, including but not limited to correcting processes and requiring any necessary or relevant training or retraining.”

It has been 48 days since the First Assistant District Attorney of the Northwestern District identified several parties associated with Town Government as being negligent in protecting this woman’s identity, as required by State Law, and urged the Town and counsel to implement precautionary measures to ensure it never happens again.

In the interim, the Hopkinton Select Board still remained ingloriously silent – refusing to take any accountability, refusing to demand consequences, refusing to explain the processes that failed, and most importantly, refusing to tell the Town’s residents and the woman the processes they would change to ensure this never happens again.

It seemingly wasn’t a priority. It wasn’t on the Select Board meeting agendas. It wasn’t even on the section of the agenda that looks at other issues that need to be addressed down the line.

They obviously were hoping the sun would set forever on this tragic series of events that have stained the reputation of a good town.

But that changed Tuesday night.

Joe Clark, a new Select Board Member, finally broke the veil of silence, piercing the shield of government hubris that defied the need for transparency for so long. Mr. Clark admirably asked that it be put on the list of future agenda items the Board should address.

And Brian Herr, the new Select Board Chair, agreed to add it to the future agenda items list.

Kudos to them both.

There have been some dark days since this courageous young woman came forward to share her accusations against Deputy Chief Porter with the Middlesex County District Attorney. Somehow lost in all the uproar about who did what when in the Loudermill Hearing was the knowledge that this young mother selflessly did this because she wanted to protect other children from suffering the same fate.

She could have just as easily stayed quiet and gone on with her life. Don’t ever forget that. But her conscience wouldn’t allow it.

Since then, Sgt. Brennan paid the price, sacrificing not just his career but his pension as well. The accuser paid the price, being devastated that her identity was not protected and is known by far too many. The accuser’s family has paid the price as well.

Meanwhile, there have been no consequences…no accountability…no explanation of how this happened and what the Town is doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I urge the Select Board to embrace the spirit exemplified by Ms. Lazarus’s tremendous leadership moment in the payroll case and act on Mr. Clark’s request quickly. Bring this future agenda item into the now.

Let light shine on this tragic case once and for all, so we can know the truth, fix what went wrong, and start anew.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I find it interesting you are calling for accountability on the missteps but the Select Board’s handling of the disclosure while also denying that Timothy Brennan should take accountability for his actions.

    The Select Board should investigate and follow-up on all gross failures. If there needs to be changes, it should happen.

    The same accountability that Timothy Brennan must face as well.

  2. Lee, don’t expect much out of A.S. as he has been asked numerous times to comment on which violations Timmy is guilty of and never steps up. He is apparently following Amy Ritterbusch’s suggestion of keeping his head in the sand. It is kind of hard to engage w/ anyone who won’t identify himself, nor answer simple questions that are put to him. I just asked him to report his list of violations, which policies were violated, and the dates those policies were implemented, crickets.

    Respectfully,

    Don Collins

    Teresa Road

    • Don, it’s too easy to bloviate without revealing your identity. I believe in having the courage to stand behind your comments.

  3. Accountability is blaming the best municipal software available? Quiz me this, why did the school payroll get out on time hmmm? Why was the payroll manager fired the next day? Lazarus took zero responsibility for something that was completely caused by her employees. That’s not accountability. Geesh!

    • Thanks for your perspective, Maureen. I researched Munis on several rankings/reviews sites and its performance is mixed at best. Having worked for a quarter century with analysts who review ERP systems for all verticals, I was actually disappointed when I saw some of the rankings from the likes of Gartner and G2. As far as Ms. Lazarus, the point I was trying to illustrate was that she acted quickly and kept the board and the residents informed of the steps that were taken in a timely fashion, instead of delaying, deflecting and ignoring what happened. I have been attending Select Board meetings and ATMs ever since the Loudermill hearing in January, and I can only go by what I have seen of Ms. Lazarus in those meetings. Even before she moved into the interim town manager role, she was always prepared and often stepped up to provide information that the previous town manager didn’t have. And if she didn’t know the answer, she would go to the office and come back with the information the Select Board was seeking. I do not know how she manages operations day to day, but from what I have seen of her at the meetings, I am impressed with her quiet professionalism and diligent dedication. Considering she is serving on an interim basis at a very trying time of turmoil for the Town, I give her a lot of credit. And I think it is pretty apparent from my comments at the Board and Town meetings, as well as opinion pieces I have written for HopNews, that I have a pretty high standard that I hold our government officials to. At least for me, she is meeting those standards in the minimal sample size I have seen.

  4. No comment on the school payroll getting out on time or the payroll manager being terminated the next day? I said nothing about Ms. Lazarus management skills just I find it ironic that you would use that example to talk about accountability. Btw there is no better municipal accounting software than munis.

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