The results of a just-released state finance report of Westhampton Beach has a trio of village board members – who had called for a private audit of their own – and Mayor Conrad Teller at odds over the recommendations.
"I am pleased to report that the state found adequate, and in some cases, strong financial controls over our financial policies and systems," Conrad said in a statement lauding the New York State Comptroller's findings.
With the initial review of the village's finances, policies and records wrapped up, Teller said a full audit by the state is not necessary given the depth of the audit.
The mayor did state, however, that the state did find that the village has set bidding thresholds that are far more strict than the state's, something that must be changed. Teller also wants a review of the village's information technology department to asses whether it's efficient enough.
The mayor said he requested the state audit after village board members hired an outside attorney at a cost not to exceed $5000 to examine the village's books after they learned that an accounting error resulted in the overpayments of 40 village employees, including the mayor, a total of $22,000.
Then, after recieving a report from the outside attorney, three board members voted to extended the services of the village's auditing firm at a cost not to exceed $7,100
Those board members didn't view the audit results the same way, and honed in on the village's IT setup.
"The state has decided that we have a serious enough problem or potential problems with internal IT controls such as restricting network access, systematic password changes, and maintaining audit logs, that they will be performing a comprehensive audit," Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker and Trustees Patricia DiBenedetto and Charlie Palmer said in a joint statement.
The trustees said they are withholding judgement until the results come in from the independent auditor.
"Giving an employee thousands of dollars when they didn’t qualify to receive it, without board approval or knowledge, can’t be allowed to happen in any government. That misuse leads to mistrust and if you can’t trust the budget officer (Mayor) or chief fiscal officer (Clerk/Treasurer), then you can’t trust your government."
Trustees also said they decided to hire their own auditor because they felt the state's review would take too long. However, Teller has blasted them over the costs.
"Rather than await this free review [by the state], these same board members voted to retain the additional services of the Village’s independent auditing firm at a cost of over $7,000 to taxpayers," said Teller. "Their work is yet to be completed however; I am fully confident they will concur with the findings of the Office of the State Comptroller."
The and that the village is looking to negotiate with union members for a new payroll schedule that would prevent overpayments from happening again.
To read the mayor and the trustees statements in full, see attached PDFs.
- Village Extends Services of Financial Auditing Firm in 3-2 Vote
- Village Clerk: New Payroll Schedule Needed to Prevent Errors
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