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Newport mayor outlines anti-fraud measures, infrastructure plans

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NEWPORT — Mayor Linda Joy Sullivan announced a series of new policies and measures aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability in city operations during her latest update. The initiatives, focused on mitigating the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse in infrastructure projects, are being developed in collaboration with the City Manager and Comptroller.

The Mayor emphasized the importance of internal controls in managing federal and state grants, stating that the new policies would be brought before the City Council for discussion and approval. These measures are expected to include thorough reviews of past policies, improved screening of subcontractors, and rigorous checks on billing processes and payroll management.

In her address, Mayor Sullivan also highlighted efforts to develop unique policies tailored to Newport’s needs, which will strengthen anti-fraud controls and address high-risk areas. The city leadership is working on enhancing municipal procedures, including medical billings, salary allocations, and procurement policies.

The Mayor further mentioned the development of non-union grievance policies and the monitoring of city assets to ensure they are used exclusively for city business. Training sessions and community forums are being planned to engage residents in these initiatives.

Addressing community concerns, Mayor Sullivan noted that she has been personally surveying the city to identify issues like potholes and speeding. These concerns are being shared with the City Manager for prompt action.

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The City Manager, settling into the role, plans to hold weekly staff meetings with the leadership team to address community and staff concerns.

Mayor Sullivan concluded by encouraging resident participation in city governance, inviting them to her bi-weekly Mayor meetings and to apply for positions on Boards and Committees. These meetings, she said, are crucial for residents to voice their concerns and offer ideas for Newport’s economic advancement.

A full copy of the letter is pasted below:

MAYOR’S UPDATE

A huge thank you shout out to Phil White and Kathleene Marcil for the beautiful picture given to the City memorializing the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Society. I was honored to cut the ribbon on opening day! Stop by the Council room and definitely attend our Council meetings so you can see it for yourself.

Your Mayor, City Manager and Comptroller are working together to put together good practices to mitigate the risk of fraud, waste and abuse on infrastructure projects and operations within the City. Municipalities are responsible for ensuring that federal funds are used for their intended purposes and should assess and establish internal controls to provide reasonable assurance regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of operations, reliability of reporting for internal and external use, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

As these policies are designed, they are being brought to the Council for discussion and approval as appropriate. We are focusing on eliminating potential for fraud, waste and abuse.

Assessing internal controls is not only a good practice in grant management, but also what is expected by those federal and state governments that afford us the grant money. So, we are working on putting in place appropriate policies and controls that have been lacking.

It is your leadership’s intent to build a culture that is conducive to both integrity efforts and furthering anti fraud measures at our municipality. All municipalities operate differently, and we are working on putting together policies unique to our City. We will develop and strengthen anti fraud controls that mitigate high risk areas. We will turn the newly discovered insight into actionable tasks.

We are looking at past policies or lack thereof and are working on putting those together to bring before the Council, as well as any findings that result from our work. We are focusing on interviews, screening subcontractors and ensuring use of appropriate equipment and workers. We are looking for accuracy in both past and present billing processes. We are looking at payroll processing. We are working to be sure that funds are appropriately segregated according to laws. We are addressing audit findings that need attention, such as year-end adjusting journal entries and financial statement footnote preparation.

We are looking at medical billings, salary allocations, time Billings, document retention, practices regarding recordings of employees, procurement policies and more. Our Council members have been given liaison assignments to work with individual departments in order to report back to the Council with updates from their contact with Department Heads.

We are developing non-union grievance policies that will be brought before the Council when completed. We are monitoring City assets and identifying that they are being used for City business. We are working to put policies and controls in place for the betterment and cost effectiveness of running our beautiful City. We are putting together trainings and community forums.

We are looking into the pothole issues and the speeding concerns. I have been going around our City personally to identify areas of concern and sharing those with the City Manager who is taking action to have the Department Heads address the issues. Collaboration is the key, and it is wonderful to be able to work closely with the City Manager to accomplish what the City needs. It takes a team with aligned goals.

Our City Manager has shared the following message: “As I settle into the City Manager role over the next few weeks, we will begin holding weekly staff meetings that include the City’s leadership team. These meetings will be an opportunity for us to review any concerns that have been brought to our attention either by the community and/or staff members and begin thoughtfully planning how to address each them.”

And it is this team effort that we are addressing that emphasizes how it is exciting that more and more residents are stepping up to volunteer for positions on Boards and Committees. Please continue to send in your letters of interest for these positions. This is the way we will hear from you and have fresh eyes and ideas as we move Newport forward economically. Again, please come to my Mayor meetings on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 9:00-11:00 AM. The City Manager joins me as well. This is where you have the opportunity to express concerns and discuss issues you have identified or ideas you would like us to explore. This is about YOU, and we are listening!

Thank you for your confidence, Your Mayor, Linda Joy Sullivan

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