SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 28, 2013

Our view: A remarkable audit


The Salem News

---- — Almost anywhere else, the recent audit of the Essex Regional Retirement System would be unremarkable.

Auditors checking on the Danvers-based agency, which manages pensions for 48 towns, school boards and other public entities, recently reported finding three deficiencies, all described as minor.

What makes this remarkable is the contrast with the last audit in 2010, which cited 23 deficiencies of such magnitude that an attorney for the supervising state agency called it “uncharted territory.” The retirement system, then led by Timothy Bassett of Marblehead, was cited for secret meetings, misuse of retirement funds, shoddy bookkeeping, improper reimbursement of expenses, and payment of more than $100,000 in legal fees without proper authorization, public bids or contracts.

Bassett was fired shortly thereafter, and the board that enabled him has been replaced.

Charles Kostro, the new executive director, has halted the abuses, cut expenses and restored the public trust. In the process, he’s earned praise from the auditing agency for doing “an excellent job” of addressing the system’s many problems.

We, too, commend Kostro for a job well done. Many helped to bring about this transformation, including local legislators and town officials who stepped up to reform the system. Kostro carried out those reforms day to day, and everyone — taxpayers and retirees alike — can be grateful.