Daffodil fest review aims to ‘help,' not probe
By Martin J. Waters, Record-Journal Staff

MERIDEN — A new six-member committee reviewing the operations of the city’s Daffodil Festival will concentrate on suggestions for the future rather than delving into questions about the past, its chairman says.

"What this committee is put together to do is really help the Daffodil Festival improve. This isn’t an issue of criticism at all," said Lawrence McGoldrick, president of Castle Bank & Trust Co. He volunteered to head the independent Daffodil Festival Review Committee, which held its first meeting Wednesday — more than six months after community leaders decided to form it.

McGoldrick chose the other five members from the business and legal communities. Four have extensive experience with nonprofit community service groups in Meriden.

The concept of an investigation absolutely is not part of the committee’s mission, McGoldrick said.

"Everybody that’s involved with this feels that it’s a phenomenal organization and it’s a phenomenal event," he said Friday. "We want to make sure that any of the issues that were raised are addressed."

Meriden’s premiere public event, the 26-year-old weekend festival, attracted an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 visitors this year.

Last winter, the Record-Journal reported on a series of problems with operations of the 25-member Daffodil Festival Committee. They included incomplete financial record keeping, absence of financial auditing and failure to comply with state and federal filing requirements for nonprofit organizations.

As a starting point for the review, McGoldrick developed a list that divides the issues into a six-item agenda. The items include whether the Daffodil Festival Committee is a private group or public organization subject to the state’s open-government, freedom of information requirements. The review also will make recommendations on appropriate financial procedures, controls and accounting procedures.

McGoldrick indicated that in covering all the issues, he believes the review may conclude that some questions are off-target. "It also will help to address some of the issues that have been raised appropriately or inappropriately raised," he said.

And it will look at questions about the relationship between city government and the Daffodil Festival Committee. The committee includes a large representation of city employees working as volunteers, led by its chairman, Mark G. Zebora, the city’s director of parks and public works. Historically, the city also has provided support services for the festival, the value of which has not been fully tracked and tallied.

The review committee includes Jeffry Cossette, a member of the Daffodil Festival Committee, the volunteer group that organizes and manages the festival. Cossette is Meriden’s deputy police chief and now serves as acting chief.

McGoldrick sees no conflict or dampening effect on the vigor of the review from including one of the festival’s leading organizers.

"It is important that we have someone from the committee to represent it," he said. Cossette has "really been the one who has updated the financial accounting within the Daffodil Committee."

The other four members of McGoldrick’s committee are:

‡ John Augustyn, owner and president of Pyramid Technologies Limited Liability Co. in Meriden and a fund-raising leader with the Meriden-Wallingford United Way.

‡ Richard Carabetta, a certified public accountant and president of R.J. Carabetta & Co. in Meriden who provides accounting services to several local nonprofit organizations.

‡ Kevin Curry, co-owner of Danby’s Auto Service and president of the board of the Girls and Boys Club of Meriden.

‡ Joseph Weigand, an attorney with Weigand, Mahon & Adelman in Meriden and a trustee of the Meriden YMCA.

McGoldrick intends to conduct the review through gathering as much written information as possible about the festival, private discussions with Zebora and others and research into questions such as whether the Daffodil Festival Committee is a public or private organization.

The committee’s meetings will not be open to the public, but its report will be released when it is delivered to the festival committee. McGoldrick plans to complete thew review by the end of December.

The review will not include a forum for community comment, he said. "We’ve got representation from the community and I think it’ll be very effectively done."

Saturday, October 09, 2004

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