Plymouth suspends comptroller after discovering fiscal ‘improprieties’

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PLYMOUTH--Plymouth's town comptroller is out--at least for now--after leaders in the finance department discovered some numbers that just didn't add up.

Leaders say the these improprieties date back to at least October 2013. Plymouth Mayor David Merchant says he was contacted by town auditors who learned of the "serious issue" on Oct. 31.

Merchant said a news conference Wednesday morning that he decided to suspend Comptroller David Bertnagel indefinitely and without pay.

"I confronted Mr. Bertnagel with the information he had and looked for an explanation. The answers he gave did not make sense to me,  nor were they given to the satisfaction," said Merchant.

The mayor says the improprieties were discovered in a bank statement, but wouldn't specify the amount or specific accounts involved.

Merchant says the town will hire an outside firm to conduct a forensic audit of the town's finances and intends to contact law enforcement to assist in the investigation.

"We will do everything possible in our power to get to the bottom of this issue," Merchant said.

Just what Bertnagel did exactly is not being revealed. The mayor did appear to confirm a reporter's question alleging Bertnagel  was pocketing money, but quickly backed off.

He would not say if anyone else has access to the accounts involved, but he confirmed that no one else is under investigation.

“Our only concern is doing an investigation that is fair and as thorough as possible,” said town attorney Bill Hamzy. “We don’t want to say or do anything that is going to taint that investigation.”

The town is now looking to appoint an interim finance director.

People who live in Plymouth, many who often attend town council meetings, say something hasn't seemed right for quite some time. "People are angry, people are fed up. We've had this going on and on in this town and have not had answers," said Melaine Church of Plymouth.

Plymouth's tax collector, Ted Smith, says he doesn't know if Bertnagel did anything wrong, but believes something doesn't add up. "Someone is either asleep at the switch or they're trying to hide something," Smith said.

Bertnagel has been employed with the town for seven years--mostly part-time before going full-time this spring. He was earning around $70,000 annually, according to Finance Board Chairman Peter Cook.

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