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Telecom forces changes in Burlington - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Telecom forces changes in Burlington

Burlington, Vermont - February 1, 2010

Controversy at Burlington Telecom is having a ripple effect on the way things are run in the city. Since financial issues at the company came to light the city council has made a number of changes.

At a Board of Finance meeting, Monday, Burlington city officials explained why city councilors did not receive a letter from city auditors that outlined management problems until five months after the officials received it. Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold said it was simply a matter of not having enough time to work on it.

"There was no effort to delay anybody seeing this report," Leopold told the Board and an audience of city councilors.

The report, called a management letter, is an attachment to the audit. It outlined what the auditors called "significant deficiencies" in the way some things are run in the city. The 2007 and 2008 letters included concerns that Burlington Telecom did not have a way to track its compliance with state regulations.

"There was not a system in place so we literally had to go through and read the whole document and ask them are you compliant with this, can you show us how you're reporting," explained auditor Fred Duplessis.

In the past the management letter would go to Leopold who would then send copies to department heads asking them to address the concerns. Leopold and his staff would compile the responses and present them to the board of finance, but it seems they never received much attention.

"We've become much more acutely aware of how important it is to pay attention to the audit," said Independent councilor, Karen Paul, of the fallout of the controversy at Burlington Telecom.

Paul introduced a resolution to the council changing the way the audit and the management letter are handled. It was passed unanimously and now they will both immediately come to the full council.

"We've got a protocol now in place. It will work. It will work because we'll make sure that it works and this will not happen again," said Paul.

The hope is that information about management issues at any city department can be addressed quickly and resolved.

One of the interesting things to come out of today's discussion of the audit is a who knew what, when, about Burlington Telecom being out of compliance with its certificate of public good. Duplessis says he went over each point of the certificate with BT management and raised a concern that they did not have a way to track compliance. He also said the management letter was shared with the head of BT. Both the general manager and several members of his staff denied to the council that they ever saw letter or discussed the concerns about tracking compliance.

Compliance with the CPG and whether the company can survive are just a few of the issues the Blue Ribbon Committee on Burlington Telecom are examining. The committee was slated to release its final report on Thursday the 4th, but it needs more time so now the report is due out Thursday the 11th.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News

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