Select Board chair Muriel Kramer at Tuesday’s Select Board meeting addressed a fraudulent invoice sent by the owner of a local news blog.
In an email to the Independent Tuesday evening, Town Manager Norman Khumalo stated that Peter Thomas, the owner and publisher of HopNews, sent Khumalo a note alerting him that he was writing “a story about a fake invoice that he submitted and the town approved and attempted to pay.”
“We learned today that the Town of Hopkinton recently received a fraudulent invoice from HopNews.com that was unfortunately processed and subsequently paid,” Kramer said. “We have taken the appropriate steps to correct for the mistake and cancel the payment; we have further taken the steps to ensure that our review processes for like payments are reinforced to protect our employees and the town from similar fraudulent activity in the future.”
Stressed Kramer: “We want to be clear that we have full confidence in our employees, and we will be pursuing appropriate legal recourse to protect the town in the future from fraudulent activities.”
Thomas questions town’s policy on advertising of government notices in news outlets
Later in the meeting, Thomas appeared before the board on a separate issue. He had previously submitted a letter to Khumalo and the board to request that “all town departments be directed to issue a request for proposal for all future advertising campaigns, and that HopNews is afforded the opportunity to participate in the process.”
Khumalo explained that he reached out to town counsel about the issue, and two issues were raised. According to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 30B, Khumalo noted, notices are required to be published in a news outlet with a print component.
Said Khumalo: “If a medium is exclusively online news, that would not meet the requirements.”
The law states that required notices must be placed in the newspaper and on the website. If the newspaper doesn’t have a website, notices must be published on the state website.
Regarding discretionary notices that are not legally required to be printed, Khumalo said “the town may consider advertising on online sources.” That decision would be “based on best business practices.”
To his knowledge, Khumalo said the Select Board never has set a policy previously regarding online advertising. Individual boards have used their discretion in placing ads.
Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch said the board should also consider having a policy on social media advertising on platforms including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. “Hyper-local targeting” could be used there to attract people in Hopkinton and surrounding towns to events, she said.
No vote was required after the discussion.