Submitted by Joe Angland, Chair, Greenwich Democratic Town Committee
Debra Hess’s moral outrage about a Greenwich Time opinion piece neglects to cite the well-reported role that she played last year in meddling with the Town’s internal audit process. It
was precisely because of that inappropriate interference that the newly-elected, Democratically-controlled BET took the lead to redraft the policy to reinforce the principle of auditor independence.
Here are the facts:
In the first half of 2017, an internal audit of the Town Clerk’s Office was completed, but withheld from release. At the time, Ms. Hess was Treasurer of Peter Tesei’s re-election campaign. Not yet elected to office, she inserted herself into the audit process, seeking to influence the publication of the completed audit. Many believed this delay was due to political pressure. Why? The Republicans in office were concerned that releasing the critical findings prior to the 2017 municipal election would hurt their chances of reelection.
One might argue as a political operator Ms. Hess had the latitude to do so, but given that she herself was a candidate for the BET, and knew full well she would be occupying that office, this behavior was entirely unacceptable. This, in a nutshell, is why no one political party should maintain control of a town for long periods of time. Relationships can turn into friendships.
Friendships can slip into cronyism, and poor governance ensues. In Greenwich, the Republican party had been in control of the BET since its inception until our last municipal election.
After the election, the newly elected Democratic chair of the Audit Committee, David Weisbrod, recognized the problem and led the effort to redraft the internal audit policy. He and Jill Oberlander ensured the new policy would state explicitly that the function would remain “free from interference”.
It is easy to blame the press. It is easy to challenge why opinion pieces should even be permitted to appear on the front page of a newspaper.
The real issue however is that fairness requires independence, both of a free press and of the critically important independent audit function.
Chair, Greenwich Democratic Town Committee