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State tells exofficial to return trade funds

A former Cohasset selectman who headed the now-defunct Massachusetts International Trade Council was improperly awarded an $83,140 severance payment and should return what he has received, says a report issued earlier this month by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump. 

Bump wants Edwin “Ted” Carr, former chairman of the Board of Selectmen, to return $6,346 of the severance he already pocketed and to make sure he doesn’t receive any more.

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She also wants the state to recover about $69,000 the trade group spent in its last two years of operation on “inadequately documented, duplicate or improperly authorized” payments to staff and consultants, the audit said. The matter has been turned over to the state attorney general’s office for possible action, she said last week.

Carr disputes the audit findings, saying he was entitled to the severance and knew of no improper spending at the nonprofit corporation that he ran with state money.

“I am happy, even eager to return any expenses improperly reimbursed, though I followed protocols and do not believe any were for anything other than costs incurred by me in promoting Massachusetts as a place to do business,” he said in a statement. “I’m disappointed that I was not given the opportunity to do this during the audit process, and I don’t understand why.”

Carr was chosen by Governor Deval Patrick to be executive director of the trade council, which was created and funded by the state to promote foreign trade and investment in Massachusetts. The council was replaced by a new agency, the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, in 2011. Carr resigned from his job to head the new agency and was fired later that year, the audit said.

Before the termination was final, however, four of the six board members of the old trade council voted to give Carr a severance package and immediately to pay him the $6,346 left in the agency checking account, the audit said.

“These board members had no authority to authorize this transaction, and the Executive Director was not entitled to receive this compensation,” the audit said,

Carr said his contract with the trade council provided for nine months of severance pay, and stipulated that the new agency would take over the obligation. Bump said the audit determined otherwise.

The audit also found problems with $56,207 in reimbursements to staff, almost half of the money the agency spent in that category. In addition, the audit said the agency overpaid its staff and consultants another $12,679 in duplicate reimbursements for expenses — with $3,009 going directly to Carr. The problems were the result of the administrative staff’s failure to “establish effective internal controls over agency operations,” the audit said.

Carr was a selectman from 2007 to 2012, when he lost a reelection bid. He chaired the board during its controversial hiring and firing of former town manager Michael Coughlin, and is named in Coughlin’s whistleblower suit against the town.

Carr works at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, a public relations firm with offices in Boston and Washington. 

“I am very proud of the work I accomplished [at the Massachusetts International Trade Council] with my dedicated staff and committed board in representing the interests of the Commonwealth on the global marketplace,” he said. “With a budget that was reduced to $100,000, in our last year alone, we helped generate over $43.5 million of taxable income and helped create 483 net new jobs for Massachusetts.”

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.

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