UPDATE 4.18.12: Deborah Buckley, CT Banking Commission examiner, notified former NCRTC official ,Roy Abramowitz, that Bank of New Canaan is going to get a hallpass for the questionable way they removed signatories on the New Canaan RTC bank account. Bank president, Heidi DeWyngaert, wrote to Buckley on April 3rd stating, “the Bank was provided with sufficient documentation to confirm the current list of NCRTC officers.” That documentation was a hand written letter by RTC Chairman O’Hora who didn’t have previous signing power on the account along with a listing of elected officers self reported on the RTC website. What’s odd about the Bank President’s response is I heard the Bank Manager, Gail Donovan, tell Abramowitz only minutes from a RTC meeting could be used as a official document and one of her staff confirmed this with me also. The Bank also claims the new Treasure & Chairman were registered with the Town Clerk and this documentation allows them to switch an account signer without being present. But the document the Bank sent the CT Banking Commission is a State Election Commission registration form dated March 26th (and stamped by the Town Clerk on the 26th)– a week after the account signature had been transferred. I checked with Town Clerk Claudia Weber’s assistant the week of March 19th when the NCRTC bank account transfer occurred and she confirmed NO new NCRTC officers had been registered with the Town Clerk’s office yet. It’s kind of interesting that O’Hora finally files the RTC officer registration after a complaint about the bank and him was filed with the NCPD.
I often hear Democrats express frustration with the way some New Canaan Republicans ‘run rampant around the rules’ because they control town government and the Hersam owned local paper doesn’t report on it. I’ve shrugged it off as political banter by these outnumbered liberals but it looks like something a little more serious has happen now that we are seeing a community Bank also making up rules as it goes along. The reality is there aren’t any real State Banking laws on how signatory power can be removed so the Commission doesn’t have a lot of teeth to investigate but the State Central Republican Party sure could. Of course that would only happen if the CT GOP gave a damn about how the O’Hora run NCRTC effects other town committees image and ability to raise funds.
New Canaan Republican town committee chairman James O’Hora and his new treasurer William Osterndorf could be in hot water after a police report and complaint to the State banking commission was recently filed over a questionable transfer of signatory power on the RTC’s bank account. An issue the Bank of New Canaan initially said they were investigating after former RTC treasurer Roy Abramowitz realized his lead signatory power was removed without him being present at the bank to complete the transaction.
Bank of New Canaan branch manager Gail Donavan told Abramowitz last Wednesday when he called questioning how his name was removed from the account, “I don’t know what Bill did to get on the account. If he didn’t come in with a letter or you didn’t come in to do the transfer they [O’Hora / Osterndorf] shouldn’t be able to do that. I will look into this for you.”
But after Donovan checked with her legal team the Bank of New Canaan executive clamed up and wouldn’t finish answering Abramowitz questions. As a result Abramowitz filed a report with New Canaan police officer Geoffrey Lambert, who gave him an incident number 12-3681.
Bank accounts of organizations that hold donor funds don’t technically require both incoming and outgoing officers to be present at an account transfer, according to internal counsel for JP Morgan Bank and a former Bank of New Canaan founding officer I interviewed. But minutes of a RTC meeting could be used for banking staff to transfer the main signatory power – an action that enables the party to sign checks or withdraw funds. When Abramowitz took over as RTC treasurer in 2010 the Bank of New Canaan made him and outgoing Treasurer John Murphy come in together in person to transfer signatory power on the RTC account.
Diana Koukides, a Bank of New Canaan account manager, told me in an interview last week only minutes of an official meeting could be used for signatory transfer. It’s unclear what documentation was presented by O’Hora and Osterndorf, a probate lawyer familiar with trusts and banking laws, but in a meeting with Abramowitz last week Osterndorf told him ‘we did nothing wrong the bank did.’
Osterndorf has not returned an email for comment.
One thing is for certain though, I heard long-time acting RTC secretary admit as of last Thursday she hadn’t written the minutes yet. So it appears there was no legal document O’Hora and his new Treasurer could have used to remove Abramowitz, a CPA and member of the PCAOB. Why didn’t they just call and ask Abramowitz to come into the bank and sign off on the account? In the past O’Hora had tried to get the RTC to let him have signing power on the account but the 2010-2012 RTC refused because they considered it a conflict of interest. According to emails and current RTC members O’Hora didn’t even ask at the last March 12th RTC meeting if he could be added to the account.
Two signatures are often on a Town Committee bank account incase the treasurer is out of town and a check needs to be cut quickly but that is only done with written approval of the treasurer. The reason is a Town Committee treasurer is the only person legally responsible for election finance spending and the sole party responsible to submit spending and donation reports to the State. The New Canaan DTC chairman, Ginny Appy, has never had signatory power of the DTC account, that role lies with her Treasurer and at times their Secretary. When Paul Foley or John Ponterrato were chairman of the NCRTC they never had signatory power of the RTC bank account. In the case of O’Hora it’s not clear right now what kind of check writing power he was given when he was added to the account.
Republican State Central executive Bob Lutts told me, “State campaign finance law gives the treasurer exclusive authority over expenditures. It is illegal for the Chairman or anyone else to have independent access to the committee’s funds.”
O’Hora and Osterndorf appear to be in cover-your-ass mode now. According to Abramowitz RTC members asked NC-RTC secretary to sign a document regarding when new RTC officers took office. So far Barrack after consulting her attorney has declined. When asked for an official comment Barrack avoided the question and referred me to the Republican State Central Committee because she said ‘the rules are complicated’.
Bank of New Canaan’s branch manager, Gail Donovan, is also clamming up. When I went in the branch last week asking about the police report that had just been filed and what the bank was doing about Abramowitz’s complaint she boldly stated, “I am not answer any of YOUR questions or speaking with Abramowitz.”
Yesterday I saw a copy of the complaint Abramowitz filed with the Connecticut State Banking Commission against the Bank of New Canaan for the transfer of signatory power.
The complaint dated March 25th states:
Irene Barrack NCRTC Secretary called me on Friday March 23, 2012 and informed me that Bill Osterndorf and James O’Hora prepared a “Certificate of Resolution” days after the signatory change stating: “That this letter certifies that the NCRTC Committee acted on the appointment of officers and elected Bill Osterndorf as Treasurer”. Mrs Barrack told me that Mssrs Osterndorf and O’hora scolded her that: “you need to sign this now”! Mrs Barrack informed me that she had spoken with her attorney and as of Sunday March 25, 2012 had refused to sign the letter.
O’Hora and Osterndorf or the Bank of New Canaan hasn’t been charged with any wrong doing and the State banking commission hasn’t started an official investigation yet. Only former RTC Treasurer, Abramowitz, who’s had a public running battle with O’Hora over his spending decisions, has filed any complaint. This week the Republican State Central Committee told Abramowitz they are setting up a panel to review actions O’Hora took at the last RTC meeting regarding filling a vacant RTC member seat.
On Thursday, New Canaan Republicans are called to come out and vote for the individuals they want to represent them as delegates for our upcoming elections. It will be interesting to see if RTC Chairman O’Hora makes the cut.
UPDATE 3.29.12: Deborah Buckley, CT Banking Commission examiner, has assigned a case number (49346) to the Bank of New Canaan complaint and began an inquiry into the actions Abramowitz filed surrounding the local banks’ transfer of power on the RTC bank account.