By Kevin Rudden Staff Reporter/Columnist
October 14, 2011
Can anyone tell me why the members of the Milford Youth Commission haven't been asked to resign? After all, these folks are at the heart of the financial disaster at the Milford Youth Center.
Yes, Youth Center Director James Sanchioni "took the fall" by resigning. But, the Youth Commission is ultimately the group responsible for the Youth Center, including how Sanchioni managed it.
Sanchioni did a fantastic job at growing the center's services to the town's youth. During his 25months in charge, participation soared and programs increased. He secured donations for major repairs including a new boiler and new windows that should result in lower utility costs. But, he obviously wasn't the best manager in terms of finances.
But, to be honest, that's ultimately the Youth Commission's role. Managing the center's finances and its personnel is it's job. Yet, the Finance Committee's review of two year's worth of commission meeting minutes – the period while it's deficit grew and grew and grew – shows no mention of financial matters.
I've been serving on volunteer organization committees for the past 15 years, and every meeting I've ever attended always – and I'll repeat that word, always – included a review and approval of those groups' budgets. In many cases, the budget review provoked some fairly lively discussions about policies and procedures for handling finances. Heck, the Boy Scout Troop I helped found eight years ago has better budget tracking procedures than the QuickBooks information the Youth Commission information turned over to the Finance Committee.
Anyone watching the October 3 Board of Selectmen's meeting on cable TV probably found it incredulous that a Youth Commission member told selectmen that she was waiting for town officials responsible for approving and paying the Youth Center's invoices to take their share of the blame for its deficits. Excuse me? The Youth Commission overspent its budget for three fiscal years in a row because the money was available? And, because you didn't know you had a deficit? Really?
Town Administrator Lou Celozzi showed an amazing amount of restraint on his usually sharp tongue in telling Tamagni that the monthly budget reports issued by those same financial officials detailed the growing deficit – if anyone bothered to read them. Celozzi freely admitted that officials agonized over when to "drop the hammer" and cut off paying the bills – especially when they were assured for months that a large donation to erase the deficit was forthcoming. Sometimes, giving people the benefit of the doubt can backfire!
The basic problem with the town keeping the Youth Center at arm's length – making it raise its own funding beyond the director's salary – is that people developed an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. In other words, it's one less thing to worry about because someone else is minding the store. Obviously, they weren't.
If the Board of Selectmen doesn't ask for the Youth Commission members to resign, perhaps they'll have enough shame over their role in bankrupting the Youth Center to finally do one thing right and resign themselves.