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We would like answers on missing $1.1 million, sale of Elks Theatre: Editorial

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With state and national elections, Donald Trump news, and other events making headlines locally, it’s easy to forget all that has happened this year in Middletown.

We want to draw your attention to two issues directly related to the borough’s finances, to which we would like some answers.

The first is “The Case of the Missing Money.”

In June, it came to the attention of the Middletown Borough Council that $1.1 million is “missing.”

On Dec. 30, 2015, council transferred $1.3 million to a borough authority that no longer exists — the Middletown Borough Authority. It owned and operated the borough water and sewer systems until Jan. 1 2015, when responsibility for the systems was turned over to Suez under terms of a 50-year lease that council and the former authority approved in September 2014. Only about $240,000 is accounted for.

More than four months ago, we said in an editorial that residents and businesses of Middletown should be outraged at the apparent loss of $1.1 million, and that they should be deeply concerned about reports of shredded documents and missing meeting minutes related to the Middletown Borough Authority from that same time frame.

We urged Middletown Borough Council and all the employees of the borough to do everything they can to find out what happened to that money, and to ensure it never happens again.

We still believe it is unlikely that someone walked off with more than $1 million in their pocket. But where did it go?

Emily A. Bomberger is a certified public accountant with the Business Consulting Services Group of RKL, a Lancaster-based accounting firm that completed the forensic audit that found the discrepancy.

She told council June 19 that the borough might be able to get information on all checks that were written by the authority, or by the borough, during the time period in question by contacting the bank.

Has anyone done so? Council has not discussed the issue in months, despite the fact that then-Council President Damon Suglia and council member Mike Woodworth recommended going to the bank to ask them for check copies. Mayor James H. Curry III was so worked up about the missing money that he requested Bomberger read word for word into the public record June 19 the conclusion of the forensic report.

Residents deserve an update. If the issue has been resolved, then tell us. If it is still being worked on, then share that with us. But don’t leave us in the dark for more than five months. We certainly hope that if the issue was resolved, it was done so above board and without further issues being found.

We also await word about the long-discussed Elks Theatre sale.

In August, the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority approved a motion to sell the 107-year-old downtown theater on West Emaus Street. The authority closed the theater for renovations in April 2015 and the theater has not reopened.

The authority in May voted to put the theater up for sale, after an agreement could not be reached between the authority and Friends of the Elks Theatre, a nonprofit group, to transfer ownership of the theater to the Friends group for $1. The Friends group had submitted a proposal to the authority to transform the Elks Theatre into a performing arts center.

The August agreement with RSR Realtors called for RSR to receive a 7 percent commission upon sale of the theater.

The motion to hire RSR was also conditional on the authority approving a listing agreement between the ICDA and RSR.

So what happened? There is no sale sign up on the theater. The property is not listed on the RSR website.

If the theater is to be sold, then what is the hold-up? Is it with the agreement with the real estate agent or something else?

We realize the borough council is going through a change in leadership, with the resignation of Suglia and the selection of Angela Lloyd as the new president.

On behalf of the residents of Middletown, we request that Lloyd provide updates on these key issues at a future borough council meeting.