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September 04. 2013 6:26PM

Sausage spending by public works employees deemed 'error in judgment' in Nashua

NASHUA — The $5,000 in taxpayer money spent last year on meals for public works employees revealed last month was first questioned by an alderman several months ago.

Although details of the meal spending have just been brought to light, Alderman-at-Large David Deane directly confronted Roy Sorenson, the city's former superintendent of the Streets Department, about the unusual meal expenses in May.

During a May 29 Budget Review Committee meeting, Deane asked Sorenson point blank if there were any purchase orders opened downtown to feed city staff.

"No, no," replied Sorenson at the time, according to the text of the meeting minutes posted on the city's website.

Deane specifically asked about the sidewalk project, noting the $1,200 meal budget for the Department of Public Works was over budget by about $4,000.

Sorenson went on to explain that during long shifts when crews are away from their families and missing meals during a storm, he would feed them in a central location and generate a At the time, Deane agreed that the workers should be eating, but maintained the city shouldn't be buying lunch or dinner for employees.

This week, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and members of the aldermanic Budget Review Committee publicly discussed the meal spending for the first time since it was disclosed last month.

"The system failed on multiple levels," acknowledged Lozeau. " … Every single one of those safeguards failed."

Financial records indicate that throughout 2012, about $5,000 was spent on meals for the Public Works Department, which includes nearly $1,500 in expenses to The Sausage King while workers were renovating the downtown sidewalks last fall.

Those expenses were authorized by Sorenson, who has since left the city for a job in another state, according to the receipts on file at Nashua City Hall.

"It is an isolated incident from what we can tell," Lozeau told the committee on Tuesday, stressing all of the meal money — less than $10,000 in the city's overall budget — is frozen and can only be approved by a department director. She did note, however, that her office has since purchased coffee.

khoughton@newstote.com


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