Coventry Senior Center Coordinator, Joan Oros has received a notice of termination from Coventry Town Manager, John Elsesser. Mrs. Oros has been on paid administrative leave and the subject of investigation since March 22.
The termination comes after the culmination of an investigation by Town of Coventry legal council, Shipman & Goodwin LLP. The investigation was initiated based on allegations of inappropriate or unprofessional conduct, including alleged mishandling of unauthorized activities and/or mismanagement of funds.
Among the allegations is the issue of a petty cash fund maintained by Mrs. Oros and not in compliance with the Town’s purchasing and cash donations procedures. It is alleged that this fund was used to purchase items for the Senior Center and to reimburse Oros and others.
In addition Mrs. Oros was involved with a Cookbook Fundraiser and jointly held title to a personal bank account in which proceeds from a Tag Sale and the Cookbook fundraiser were deposited. While there is no allegation that this was done for personal profit there is considerable question as to the propriety of such action and issues of compliance with Town policy. The Cookbook Fundraiser was not an approved activity from which funds would by policy have been required to be directed to the General Fund.
According to the investigation, “Ms. Oros’ heavy involvement in the Cookbook Fundraiser led to the seniors’ impression that the fundraiser was Town sponsored.” While Ms. Oros’ contends that her personal involvement was separate from her position as Senior Center Coordinator according to the report, “there is evidence that she used her position to coordinate the fundraiser and conduct the fundraiser on Town time.”
In a message to supporters Mrs. Oros has written, “I will advise you that this is a wrongful dismissal and I am seeking all legal remedies at getting my job back.” In reading that statement it is clear Mrs. Oros does not agree with the findings and may seek her day in court.
The final recommendations from the investigation include the following statements. “Given her prior municipal finance experience and the training and direction that she received with respect to the Town’s policies and procedures, the conduct that is the subject of this investigation is particularly egregious and troubling. As a result of her willful evasion of Town’s policies and procedures and her mishandling of Town funds, significant disciplinary action, up to and including possible termination of her employment, may be warranted. However, in the event that a determination is made to mete out discipline short of termination, it is clear that Ms. Oros cannot be trusted to handle financial duties and responsibilities.”
In addition to acting as the Senior Center Coordinator Mrs. Oros is also the current Chairman for the Republican Town Committee. While Mrs. Oros feels her dismissal has been “wrongful” it does create a cloud of doubt in ethical conduct that may be clarified by her pursuit of legal action. In the interim it may be wise council for her to take a leave of absence as Chairman of the Republican Party.
In this election year local Republican candidates should not be burdened with the weight of questions concerning ethical conduct of their leadership in matters of Town funds and adherence to established policies. The current Vice-Chairman of the Republican Town Committee, John Henry is an accountant and is well suited to take over the leadership while Mrs. Oros pursues her legal action.
The Republican Caucus to select candidates for the Coventry election this fall is this Wednesday 7:00pm at Ackert Hall. The caucus is open to all registered Republicans with candidates for Town Council, Board of Education and other elected positions being selected. Any registered Republican may attend the only requirement may be identification such as a drivers license so that the name can be verified on the list of registered Republicans.