Why should The Sewickley Gazette Dig For The Truth?

The Sewickley Gazette is currently at work on several stories about several  Borough of Sewickley activities, including the recent audit by The Nottingham Group and the plan to ship borough wastewater to Leetsdale’s treatment plant.

These stories have origins that reach back years: in the case of our wastewater, a decade; the audit, possibly longer.

We’ve asked ourselves why it is important to understand the history and context of complex issues, especially when things might be improving.  Why not draw a line, and move on?

This was the flavor of what current Borough Council President Jeff Neff said when we asked about the audit.  Mr. Neff said “it wasn’t really a forensic audit” and added that everything was fine.

When we looked at the website of the Nottingham Group, this is what we read:

“The Nottingham Group is a boutique consulting firm that specializes in fraud investigations, forensic accounting engagements and litigation support.”

Nottingham Group Partner Kark Jarek, who performed the work for the borough, highlights among his credentials his membership in the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

The Gazette has filed a Right to Know Request for the results of the Nottingham Group’s work, and also for the engagement letter.  Assistant Manager Sakalik emailed us that our request requires legal review.

We asked for the engagement letter because the length of time Mr. Jarek apparently spent on Borough records seemed too short for a thorough forensic audit.

So we ask: was hiring The Nottingham Group a serious attempt to untangle past practices by borough management – or – was it a gesture to pull a curtain across activities that, if disclosed, would cause massive discomfort?

We believe borough citizens need to know. We need to see the results of the audit.

We believe that borough management and our elected officials cannot go forward with accountability and transparency unless we fully comprehend how former officials and management conducted the borough’s business and spent borough resources.

Practices and processes have a way of embedding themselves. Putting down root systems, they can drain and inhibit the very best intentions of new personnel.

The history of Sewickley’s wastewater treatment facility is another example of a story that needs to be covered in depth.  See the first segment of our reporting on this issue “What’s that smell?” in the “Borough Affairs” section.