HomeOpinionDoes Hopkinton Have Structural Integrity? 

Does Hopkinton Have Structural Integrity? 

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The expression “structural integrity” is typically used in engineering. It addresses whether a particular structure can withstand the load that is applied to it. Some examples are bridges and buildings. We are probably all aware of the catastrophes that have ensued when structural integrity fails. 

But the expression could also be used to address other areas in life. After all, we talk about personal integrity, or the integrity of institutions, right? When we use it in this manner, we are usually referring to honesty or adherence to certain standards. But what about the concept of structural integrity? What would that mean for an institution or a process? To my view, it would mean that the institution or process has been designed in a way to withstand the “loads” that are applied to it. When airlines sell 200 tickets for a flight with only 180 seats, that may indicate a lack of ‘structural integrity” because the policy in place could fail if all 200 ticket holders show up. 

Does Hopkinton have “structural integrity”? Does our town have processes in place to ensure that our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent responsibly? 

I have my doubts. 

I was dismayed by the reaction of town officials to the “fake invoice” submitted by HopNews. It seemed that, instead of admitting there is a problem with how the town pays their bills, the focus was on HopNews. Why? Well, in order to answer this question, we need to ask why HopNews sent in this fake invoice in the first place? To embarrass people? To make a good news story? 

No. HopNews sent in the fictitious invoice to highlight the lack of financial controls in town. HopNews was concerned about what is happening to our tax dollars. Why do we have such a staggering number of vendors for our small town? What is the process for approving invoices for payment? Are purchase orders created for each expenditure? Are the invoices then matched to the purchase orders? Who approves the purchase order in the first place? Who approves the payment? Do we put out bids for the work in town? Who evaluates those bids? 

There are countless examples of government and private entities that have been subject to fraud, graft, or bribery. One common method of bribery is for a vendor to inflate the cost of their goods or services, and then provide a “kickback” to the person who gave them the contract. Is it possible that this sort of thing is happening in Hopkinton? Who knows? 

This is where structural integrity comes in. There should be iron-clad processes and procedures that ensure that all purchase orders are reviewed by several people before being issued. And when the invoice is paid, the amount being charged matches the purchase order. Does Hopkinton have these procedures? 

To answer that question, let’s return to the dreaded “fake invoice” that HopNews sent in. This invoice referred to an ad campaign that did not exist. The invoice also referred to a particular (actual) committee in town. Yet evidently nobody on this committee was asked about the invoice. And to make matters worse, HopNews was not even set up as a vendor in the town’s accounting system, since the town chooses to spend all of their ad dollars on a different newspaper. Does HopNews have the opportunity to bid on these town notices, or are they simply given to the same newspaper year after year? 

So, let’s recap. The town paid an invoice from a vendor who did not exist for an ad campaign that did not exist. And who got the blame? HopNews. The reaction was to shoot the messenger, and to mumble some vague promises that all is well. Nothing to see here! 

A few questions: How do we know that it hasn’t happened repeatedly in the past? What corrective action procedures were put in place after this debacle to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, since they evidently did not exist when the invoice was paid? Where is the apology to the taxpayers for this incredible lack of oversight? And where is the thanks to HopNews for exposing this problem? Was the HopNews invoice just the tip of the iceberg? Are there other invoices that are incorrect? Who is minding our tax dollars?  

We are still waiting for answers. 

Glen Dawson is a Hopkinton resident and guest contributor to HopNews.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I know they’ve done nothing. Town management has been too busy covering there ass from promoting Porter ( accused child raper) and covering up for a do nothing Grafton resident (known as police chief). All this BS has taken the wind out of town employees sails. Watching what sgt Brennan has been through (who all town employees know) the thought of if Hopkinton would do this to Tim they’ll never have my back.

  2. Hopkinton has a long history (over 30 years) of financial issues – not necessarily malicious – but poor controls and reporting. I think what HopNews did was a valid and good idea to test and highlight things as lack of controls leads to opportunities for corruption as we have seen with allegations of embezzlement and more. We need to get our house in order by starting with basics of control in all areas – finance, personnel, strategy, etc.

  3. I thought one of the issues with the notices was that there’s a requirement that they go out in paper form in addition to any digital distribution. There are no hard copies of HopNews, whereas the Hopkinton Independent does go out to each home. Is HopNews looking into hard copy distribution as well, or staying purely digital?

    • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Townsley. You are (partially) correct. MGL Part 1, Title 1, Chapter 4, Section 13 forces municipalities to distribute public notices (e.g. foreclosures) in print publications (not online only, like HopNews). However, there is no restriction with respect to straight advertising campaigns. The Town spends tens of thousand of dollars with the Hopkinton Independent each year promoting programs, such as Parks and Rec events. These are no-bid awards. On November 6, 2023, we wrote to Mr. Khumalo and the Select Board, and we also spoke at public forum on the matter; thus far no action.

  4. Glen, thank you for this article. Unfortunately, the answer to your question is no; our town lacks structural integrity.

    It is crucial to hold officials accountable and build trust in the community. Your concerns about how the town officials handled the “fake invoice” incident and their lack of transparency in vendor selection and advertising contracts are valid.

    Citizens deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent, and they should hold elected officials responsible for any mismanagement or irregularities. It’s disappointing that the Town hasn’t apologized to taxpayers for their oversight. We all owe HopNews a debt of gratitude for being vigilant.

    Hopkinton would greatly aid rebuilding trust by informing taxpayers of steps to prevent similar incidents. Responsible management of public funds requires continuous efforts, such as regular audits, internal reviews, and prompt engagement with the community to address concerns.

    By consistently asking questions, advocating for transparency, and holding officials accountable, we can create a culture of integrity and responsible use of public resources.

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