I am currently participating in the BOC meeting and was not called upon during the open comments on agenda items. The closed executive session immediately followed and went for an unexcusable length of time during a public meeting. There seemed to be some technical difficulties during the open session both with audio and with identifying virtual 'hand raisers'. As a result, I would like to raise some concerns about one of the agenda items for today's meeting here.
Commissioner Petracco and Town Counsel Genitempo indicated that they would like a firm to review the Nutley Volunteer Emergency & Rescue Squad's financials at the cost of up to $15,000 of taxpayer money. As a near 20-year member of the Squad, I question that decision further and want to offer some insight.
Geltrude & Associates performed accounting services for NVERS for several years. During their years of service for the Squad, Geltrude was paid well over $100,000. NVERS administration, in an effort to increase fiscal responsibility, examined other firms to see if Geltrude's prices were fair or if they could identify less expensive alternatives for equal or better services. The result was a transition away from Geltrude and services were awarded to another firm who beat Geltrude's price. This transition was made with approval of NVERS's Executive Board.
If the town wishes to spend $15,000 auditing the Squad, it seems ethically questionable to employ the company they fired to conduct that audit.
In addition, the Squad operates without taxpayer dollars and has full control over its own operational budget. This has been the case for years since the Squad ceased taking township funding at the Township's request. All equipment, personnel, and other expenses are paid for via funding through insurance reimbursements and charitable donations made specifically to NVERS.
As a former board member at NVERS and as a former resident of Nutley for over 40 years, I am disheartened that the BOC would seek to utilize $15,000 of taxpayer dollars to help a scorned accounting firm damage the reputation of NVERS. It would be more appropriate to hire an independent third party with no conflicts of interest to conduct such an investigation, if one is necessary.
As a member of the Squad who returned to active riding status during the COVID 19 crisis, I can personally attest to the professionalism, foresight, and fiscal responsibility of the current Squad leadership. As soon as the crisis hit, the current Chief and President utilized the Squad's network of former volunteers to recruit additional assistance. As a result, hundreds of hours of additional staff power were added at no cost to help cover the Township of Nutley's emergency medical needs as the COVID 19 case numbers in town rose. They could have relied on overtime and wasted precious financial resources, but they leveraged the passion the volunteer core has for the organization and mobilized additional resources without incurring increased cost. This move allowed them to not only cover every call during the crisis without the need for mutual aid assistance, but to do so in a fiscally responsible manner that also allowed them to offer hazard pay to their paid professional staff.
Town Counsel Genitempo and Commissioner Petracco did the Squad a disservice by suggesting fiscal impropriety. They also appear to be using taxpayer dollars to repay a local firm who has a history of supporting municipal political candidates and who has a potential grudge against the Squad.
I hope they reconsider and choose a more amicable and responsible path in engaging those who seek to serve the Township of Nutley.