Cumberland council to fill vacancy after SAD 51 School Board member resigns

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CUMBERLAND — The resignation of School Administrative District 51 board member Pete Wilson has opened a vacancy the Town Council must fill.

Wilson, appointed by the council in 2013 to fill a vacancy on the School Board, was elected to a three-year term on the panel last year.

He resigned last week citing differences over board procedures.

The council will now choose someone to fill the Cumberland representative’s seat until the June 2016 election. Those interested in serving must have been a resident of the town for at least one year prior to their appointment, and they must remain in Cumberland during their term.

Letters of interest – no more than two pages long and including the applicants’ name, address, length of time in Cumberland, and a description of their involvement in the community and knowledge about the school district –  must be received by the town by 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1.

They can be sent to Ron Copp, Appointments Committee chairman, Cumberland Town Council, 290 Tuttle Road, Cumberland, ME, 04021, attention “MSAD Board of Directors Vacancy.”

Wilson, who worked in the field of corporate income tax prior to his retirement, stated several reasons for his resignation, many pertaining to finances, in an email Sept. 18.

The first was the Finance Committee’s “insistence … to not adopt a standard requiring board members to document their review of warrants,” adding that “review is a separate and distinct action from approval.”

He criticized the practice of paying for advice related to that item, “and ignoring the essence of that advice taken together with verbal input from our independent accountant.”

Another reason he gave was a statement made by “an influential finance committee member to the effect that establishing standards related to documenting work constitutes micromanagement.”

Wilson also cited “taking up paid legal time to get input on whether the board has to abide by its own by-laws,” and a “lack of controls over online support for this year’s school budget.”

He mentioned the Finance Committee’s “reluctance … to adopt a reporting requirement whereby reports provided to finance committee would be in (what I call) modified consolidated basis. That is, requiring those reports to be in a far more reviewable format than what we use.”

Finally, Wilson criticized “the inclusion in our budget support of a statement that is meaningless (at best) and that would be likely to lead voters to false conclusions.”

School Board Chairwoman Martha Leggat said in an email Sept. 19 that Wilson’s resignation letter aired concerns with issues he had raised while on the Finance Committee.

“Each of these concerns were addressed through inclusion on Finance Committee agendas, discussions at meetings, and in some case, by vote of the Finance Committee,” she said. “At times legal opinions were sought to ensure the accuracy of the district’s practices, to answer Pete’s questions, and to provide independent opinions to the Finance Committee as a whole. These independent reviews validated the practices our district has in place regarding warrants, fulfilled by our professional accounting staff who are governed by a defined internal control procedure.”

She added that SAD 51’s accounting procedures are reviewed each year by independent auditors “who have supported our internal procedures as being best practice.”

Leggat also praised Wilson’s service to the Cumberland-North Yarmouth district. She noted that in his two years in the board, Wilson served on SAD 51’s Finance, Strategic Planning, and Policy and Negotiations committees, and served as Portland Arts & Technology High School liaison for a year.

“Pete was one of two board representatives on the Teacher Evaluation stakeholder group,” Leggat wrote. “He also generously volunteered his time to tutor students in an after-school program at Greely Middle School. Pete’s contributions to the committees he served on were notable and valued by all who worked with him. Board members also appreciated his quick one-liners and thoughtful insights.

“Making the decision to resign is a personal one for Pete, and the board thanks him for his generous service to the district,” she added.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Pete Wilson

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.