Updated: Lenox's heroine accountant departing for private sector


LENOX - Following the resignation of interim town accountant Marge Pero - admired for helping straighten out the town's official accounts ledger from disarray when she was hired 15 months ago - Town Manager Gregory Federspiel is moving quickly to locate a successor.

Ideally, he told The Eagle on Thursday, he may hire a municipal finance director and accountant, with supervisory duties under his direction, to keep the town's books up to snuff.

"There may be a way to make sure we get someone in here with the level of skills and experience that would benefit the town," he said.

"We'll go forward with that ASAP, with some urgency," the town manager said. He's seeking a professional with "a strong skill set in accounting, preferably municipal accounting, which is a different animal." Until then, he's eyeing temporary help to keep the transition as seamless as possible.

Municipal auditors Thomas Scanlon & Associates issued their delayed report last March for the 2010-11 fiscal year, citing a "significant deficiency in internal controls" because of a six- month backlog in reconciling accounts in the town ledger while stressing that no funds were missing or misused.

Federspiel, working with Pero, moved quickly to update the records. Explaining her departure, she said an offer from Lee Bank's mortgageorigination department "was one I couldn't refuse. Mortgage banking is my passion." She had put in 30 years with Lenox Savings Bank and its successor, Legacy Banks, before taking the town post in July 2011.

" I'm sorry to see her go," said Federspiel. " She certainly did an excellent job for us. But I understand her heart lies with the banking business. I wish her well."

At Wednesday night's Select Board meeting, Chairman Kenneth Fowler said: "I appreciate all she's done, she's been a really hard worker and a very quick study in that position."

Pero leaves Oct. 11 and starts at Lee Bank a week later. She emphasized that she is not resigning because of dissatisfaction with her role at Town Hall nor her interim status, but is looking forward to a position with more customer interaction.

The audit pointed out that the Selectmen need reliable, current data in order to make spending decisions.

" I'd like to continuously have an update at least once a month on our treasurer, our audits, our books, our balances and where we stand," said Selectman David Roche at this week's annual board retreat.

" We got behind the eight ball last year for various reasons - I'm not pointing any fingers. But we got less than a favorable review from the auditor, which we corrected almost immediately. I just wouldn't want to see us slipping back."

Roche explained that he wants to see evidence monthly that "the books are balanced, the money's where it's supposed to be and we're up to date."

Fowler suggested a scheduled report from Federspiel at the second board meeting each month.

"It's just to reassure the town, and us, on a regular basis where we stand," Roche added.

Federspiel agreed that "it's easy enough to provide and print out a monthly summary report."

"Being informed is the most important thing," said Selectman John McNinch, emphasizing that he doesn't want to be blind-sided. "I don't want to find out that our books were not balanced or anything like that. I want to know about it beforehand."

"We're going to make mistakes," McNinch said, "but as long as we react to them and can say, 'We know that, we're already doing X, Y and Z,' we can counter that. I don't want everyone coming up to me and asking, 'How did that happen?' "

To reach Clarence Fanto: cfanto@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6247 On Twitter:@BE_cfanto


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