Attleboro city hall

Attleboro City Hall. (Sun Chronicle file photo)

ATTLEBORO — A longtime city contractor took the blame for the water department’s failure to get a purchase order for the installation security cameras at the West Street treatment plant, a move which raised the hackles of city councilors and prompted a reprimand from the city auditor.

In a letter to Mayor Paul Heroux, Arthur Eaton, chief executive officer of Help, Inc. of Plainville said his company installed two security cameras at the city’s water treatment plant despite the absence of a purchase order because he was concerned about the risk to the water supply if the area did not have surveillance.

Eaton, an Attleboro resident, said he thought it was important to get the job done quickly, with or without a purchase order.

“We are discussing our water supply, which could be vulnerable to someone with malicious intent,” he told the mayor.

He said he would not have billed the city if a purchase order submitted later was not approved.

Help, Inc. has done work for the city since the late 1980s, Eaton said.

In the last two years the company has been paid nearly $227,000 for jobs in various departments according to the city auditor.

“My actions should have no reflection on any city employee,” Eaton said.

But there was.

When the city council found out, it refused to authorize a water department request for $6,000, which included Eaton’s $1,093 worth of work at the West Street plant. The remainder was for a security system at the Luther Pond pumping station. Most of that work had not been done.

In addition, city auditor Deborah Gould issued a stern letter to water superintendent Kourtney Wunschel.

Gould sent Wunschel a four-page email concerning the matter on June 28, saying failure to submit a purchase order for work with a value over $500 violated city ordinances.

She said the lack of a purchase order and the failure to know workers were on site could have had serious insurance liability consequences.

“As city auditor I cannot impress upon you enough the importance of following the rules an regulations in place relative to the procurement of good and services,” she said. “Being good stewards of the public trust is critical.”

In the meantime, the $1,093 was paid to Help, Inc. with money available in the water department’s budget after a purchase order was submitted.

Wunschel had no comment saying the issue has been resolved.

Heroux defended her, saying there was no lapse in protocol and Eaton did the work without the knowledge of the department.

George W. Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

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