County Commissioner Says Questionable Lease Executed Properly

BARNSTABLE – Barnstable County Commissioner Leo Cakounes believes  the lease of a county property being questioned by the state was executed properly.

The state auditor’s office recently released a report stating the county did not follow proper leasing requirements, including first offering the properties to the state or the communities in which the land is located, not having independent appraisals completed and not maintaining adequate documentation.

Cakounes said he has found evidence indicating the lease for the Senior Living Residences of Cape Cod in Bourne followed state law.

“I since have discovered some minutes of the Bourne Town Meeting that voted to not exercise their right under Massachusetts general law to lease the property themselves,” Cakounes said. “I have some minutes of the state legislature that voted not to extend their option.”

The auditor’s 14-page report found that seven tenants of county properties were found not to have proper leases. Five of those also had their utilities, grounds maintenance, IT expenses and parking lot use paid for by the county.

The audit recommends the county should establish formal written policies and procedures for leasing properties and establish monitoring controls to ensure the policies are followed.

The state also says the county may obtain legal advice on whether leases can be renegotiated or terminated if administrators believe the agreements are not in the best interest of the county.

“From here now I will have to bring back the information I have found as a single commissioner and I will show it to my fellow commissioners,” Cakounes said. “We will discuss it in an open meeting.”

Cakounes said it is still too soon to say if the county will look to renegotiate the lease which does not bring any money to the county.

He said the county has also already remedied other leases with the Cape Light Compact and the DEP, and that he is still investigating reams of paper work.

The audit also questioned the county’s practices of not properly financing capital projects. Although the county was authorized to issue debt in the form of bonds or notes to fund projects, the county routinely funded projects using money that was properly approved to fund its General Fund, not to issue debt. Many capital projects that were deemed necessary by the county were not completed as a result.

Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015 the county approved $6,543,200 in capital projects. Because the county did not secure debt to finance these projects only $2,352,773 of the proposals were financed.

“Today, and when I took office a little over two years ago, Barnstable County has no bond rating – no bond rating because we’ve never borrowed money,” Cakounes said. “And that is very concerning to me.”

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