WESTERLY — Faced with an initial bill of about $179,000 to settle payroll irregularities alleged by a labor union that represents both town and school department employees, town officials succeeded in negotiating the figure down to about $60,000.
Town Manager J. Mark Rooney confirmed the settlement last week, giving credit to Patricia Main, who he said first suggested that calculations performed by an auditing firm hired by Laborers International Union of North America were skewed. When Rooney started his job in May, he learned the town was about to pay the full $179,000 but Main told him the figure was too high.
"I trusted her and she proved worthy of the trust," Rooney said of Main, who first went to work in the school department in 2004 and now serves as senior payroll and human resources specialist in the municipal human resources department.
Audits of payroll records are conducted routinely on behalf of the union, which represents the town's public works employees as well as school district bus drivers, secretaries and maintenance workers, to monitor the town and school district's contributions to employee pensions.
Salter & Company LLC., a Maryland-based accounting firm, reported school employees were shortchanged $150,000 and that public works employee pensions were underpaid by about $29,000. Both figures included interest.
After speaking with Main, Rooney asked former interim Finance Director Barbara Perino and Nancy Markey, the municipal human resources director, to analyze the auditors findings and the town's payroll records. Rooney said that former employees had recommended paying the full $179,000.
"Basically, I believed Patty Main more... Patty Main was the hero in this," Rooney said.
According to Rooney, part of the town and school district's exposure in the case was due to antiquated record keeping and payroll processes used by the school department. He told the Town Council recently that a proposal to consolidate aspects of the town and school human resources functions would help modernize those functions.