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Great Barrington Assistant Treasurer/Collector under criminal investigation

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By Thursday, Mar 7, 2019 Breaking News 21

Great Barrington — Deborah Ball, Assistant Treasurer/Collector and a familiar face at Great Barrington Town Hall for many years, is under criminal investigation, according to the Berkshire County District Attorney’s office.

Assistant Town Treasurer Deborah Ball.

“The matter is under investigation by the officers assigned to the State Police Detective Unit attached to the District Attorney’s Office,” said Dennis Yusko, Communications Director for the DA’s office. “It is an active, criminal investigation. As such, we will not comment further at this time.” No charges have yet been filed.

Ms. Ball, who has been placed on administrative leave, was reached in person at her home in Great Barrington. She and her husband Michael both declined to comment. “Not a word,” Ms. Ball said.

Town officials also declined to comment, stating that it was a personnel matter, although it was confirmed that the investigation was of a financial nature.

The town’s finances for the prior fiscal year (2018) are still being audited. Audits don’t typically drag on this long, but it’s not entirely unusual when they do. The town recently hired a new CPA firm, Scanlon & Associates of Deerfield, Mass., to perform the audit. The delay could be for any number of reasons. Town officials declined to comment. Town audits are designed to check for accuracy and any possible irregularities.

There is no official estimate as to when the current audit of FY 2018 will be completed. The town is currently more than halfway through its current fiscal year, 2019. The town’s fiscal year begins each year on July 1 and ends on June 30 of the following year.

Town budgets are assembled during a long process that involves department heads, the Selectboard, and the Finance Committee. On March 4th, the Selectmen and Finance Committee voted in a joint public hearing to recommend that citizens approve their proposed FY 2020 budget at the Annual Town Meeting in May.

On February 25th, the Board of Selectmen went into Executive Session, private meetings that are strictly regulated by state statute and designed to address sensitive material such as litigation and personnel issues. Anything discussed in Executive Session is not immediately available to the public. However, the Board stated that, among other reasons, it was headed into executive session “to investigate charges of criminal misconduct or to consider the filing of criminal complaints…”

Ms. Ball is known to many taxpayers as the sometimes-brusque town employee who works behind the large plate-glass window in the lobby of Town Hall. If you hand-deliver your tax payments, she’s often the one who accepts the payment and stamps your receipt. Those who know her say they find her an endearing and loyal friend. Others, often those newer to Town Hall, frequently complain about her customer service. Given that the treasurer’s office is in the lobby, she’s often seen as the public face of Town Hall to those unfamiliar with the workings of town government.

Ms. Ball’s family has lived in South County for a number of years. Her father, Frank MacKoul, deceased, was a member of the Great Barrington Fire Department for 24 years, a Special Police Officer for Great Barrington for 9 years, and a member of the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department. He was also as seller of antiques and known to be an engaging storyteller of town lore. Ms. Ball’s husband, Michael, recently retired as Head Custodian after working for the Town of Great Barrington for more than 30 years. In that position, he was often in charge of cleaning and maintaining public buildings, such as Town Hall and the police department.

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21 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Helen says:

    I was thinking the same thing.

    Editors, please correct this.

  2. Lois Reynolds says:

    I felt this article was a bit too personal …..so much was just not necessary….such as her personal style of doing business with the public….quite unnecessary…..it seems who ever wrote this article has a personal vendetta to include such ideas of their own choosing….needs some maturity for sure….

  3. Tony Carlotto says:

    The “embellishments” were not necessary here, just as I will bite my tongue from further embellishing my comment.

  4. Steve Farina says:

    I agree. Additionally it seems to imply guilt of a financial crime, when no public accusations have been made.
    Additionally, as a relative newcomer to town, I have had nothing but pleasant interactions with our assistant treasurer/collector.
    Hopefully, the investigation will find no willful wrongdoing on her part – which is also a very potential outcome not mentioned.
    And, if it is a “new” auditing firm finding irregularities, as seems to be implied, wouldn’t there also be an investigation into the previous auditing firm and prior year’s audits?

  5. Lawrence Davis-Hollander says:

    Seems a bit preemptive given the facts

  6. Paul Benjou says:

    This does not qualify as reporting. It positions the person in a bad light with seemingly negative assumptions. Digging into the personal lives of innocent people and family is uncharacteristic of the EDGE and shameful. Deborah is a warm and trusting person who goes out of her way to help those in need.

  7. Laura C says:

    What does Andrew think….this is the NY Times? Is he trying to be the next Bob Woodward? Is this his first attempt at writing an investigative story? He failed miserably.
    Stick to the facts that you know and don’t make it personal.

    1. Paul Benjou says:

      Totally agree

  8. Lawrence Davis-Hollander says:

    I don’t know who K is …. but I do think that the Edge should have some kind of policy for signatures to letters. K is obviously no ones name. It’s not even a pseudonym. For a small community why can’t we leave our real names?

  9. Mickey Friedman says:

    I think this might be a good time to remind ourselves that there is the all-important presumption of innocence.

  10. Lou Moscatello says:

    The article, until you get to the last three paragraphs, is an excellent job of reporting, including many important nuances most reporters would overlook. The last three paragraphs are what make this a local story in a local medium read by local people who already know the people involved or want to know all about them. Yes, the “unenviable position” comment was a little over the top, but actually spot on as to reality.

  11. Janice Storti says:

    I do not personally know the writer, but this is absolutely a poorly written example of the old term, yellow journalism. It is completely unprofessional. I am surprised that the Edge would have printed such an article. The problems with the article begin when Belchman calls Ms. Ball “a sometimes-brusque town employee.” I taught journalism at one point in my career and I’m an avid reader of some of the most prestigious newspapers in print. Blechman wouldn’t last a minute if he were hired by any of them. I have enjoyed the Edge for all local news. It is fair and respectable. I was shocked to read this article. The subject was muddled by the insinuations of the writer. This article comes off as being prejudiced against Ms. Ball and it puts the Berkshire Edge in a very difficult situation.

    1. Lou says:

      As a CSJ-educated journalist who worked to deadline for 30 years and someone who has paid his taxes at GB town hall, I find the term “sometimes brusque” accurate reporting. I just don’t get it that local, accurate color and context in the story creates bias. Perhaps only in those who can’t see past that unimportant stuff when it comes to the true relevant facts of the case, whatever those turn out to be. If someone who knew my workplace behavior described me as “often brusque” they too would be reporting accurately. Ask my writers. So what.

  12. Laura K. says:

    Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Small town politics is what is wrong here. Just report the facts when they are available…no more…no less. I do not abandon friends in times of trouble.

  13. Jamie Hutchinson says:

    I want to second Jennifer Clark’s views, along with others who’ve questioned the content and tone of Andrew Blechman’s story. Months or years from now, once everything is known and the situation has been resolved, it might, depending on circumstances and outlet, be appropriate to engage in writing a “human interest” story about the curious doings in a small town in Western Massachusetts. But at this point, with so much unknown and a person’s reputation on the line, the author (and the paper’s editor, I would add) should have given the story (i.e., the more subjective parts) a second thought before going to press. I would also add my name to those believing that letters to the Edge should be attached to the writer’s full name. Otherwise, it’s too easy not to take personal responsibility for one’s interactions with the community.

  14. Garry F Mackoul says:

    Mr. (journalist?) Blechman. You are obviously unaware that there are other members of this family who are deeply
    affected by your presumptive judgement about your obvious personal perception of a family you know nothing about.
    Enough said for now.

  15. Craig Okerstrom-Lang says:

    Pretty fair assessment of Ms Ball from my own experiences at Town Hall…very serious having the State Police investigate anything…versus passing judgement on the author’s article and use of personality descriptions, let’s see how this plays out…

  16. Steve Farina says:

    Huh, another case of disappearing comments. The total says 18, yet only 13 are displayed. From my recollection there were additional comments from Darcie Sosa, Jenny Clark, Paul Benjou, K, and myself.
    Where did they go?

    1. Steve: We remove comments deemed offensive, that express a personal or ad hominem attack, or that are irrelevant to a discussion of the issue at hand. For your information, Jenny Clark asked that her comment be removed.

  17. Rob Slonaker says:

    Journalists being attacked, on a personal level, for a story they report on. Where have I seen this before… oh wait, Donald Trump. To all the Blechman bashers, you have failed in the eyes of your President. No one took the opportunity to label this “fake news”, I am sure he will be disappointed.

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