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Trustees Vote to Audit Village Finances; Mayor Says, Nay

Mayor Contrad Teller says the village is already paying for a independent auditing services, trustees say they want another opinion.

Westhampton Beach Village Board members voted during a special meeting on Wednesday evening to hire an outside attorney that will audit the village's finances.

The resolution passed 4-1 with Mayor Conrad Teller casting the lone dissenting vote.

The resolution specifically approves the hiring of former Village of Bellport attorney and clerk Scott B. Augustine at a rate of $175 an hour, not to exceed $5,000 to "investigate the financial transactions and records of the village to assure that the village clerk/treasurer has and is currently complying with all policies of the village, the New York Comptroller's Office and the laws of New York State."

The resolution further directs "the village clerk/treasurer, bookkeeper and village auditors to assist Augustine in his review."

On Thursday, Trustee Patricia DiBenedetto said the resolution speaks for itself.

"As village trustees, we are in a position to manage the property and finances of the village and this is about the finances," she said. "It is time that the trustees do more than just hold liazonships. We must take responsibility to look out for the best interests of the village."

"Maybe it is something or maybe it is nothing, but this is our job," said Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker, who said he could not, at this time discuss, specifics.

The move comes after trustees failed to approve several budget transfers for overpayments at its last meeting, held on Oct. 4.

DiBenedetto said the decision not to approve the budget transfers is possibly related to this latest move and that the decision to hire an attorney was carefully evaluated. She also indicated that trustees reached out to the state comptroller's office to request an audit, but were told that the state is currently busy with school audits.

"Overpayments are not uncommon, but we want to justify all the money," said DiBenedetto of the resolutions that failed to pass.

"The trustees have come up with some inconsistencies and we each have various degrees of concern," said Trustee Ralph Urban, "We felt that this would be the best course of action."

Also asked about the specifics of the inconsistencies, Urban said he, like Tucker, and DiBenedetto would prefer not to disclose them at this point.

"It's like litigation. I don't want to make any false accusations or statements. We just want to see these concerns straightened out," he said.

Mayor Teller, however, argues that the village already has on the books an auditing firm, Satty, Levine & Ciacco, which the village pays $30,000 a year.

Most recently, he said the firm found discrepancies in overpayments to employees, including himself to the tune of $99.

"Paychecks to those employees are being deducted for overpayments," said Teller, explaining that the error related directly to the village's pay cycle, which can change depending on leap years and union contracts.

"As far as I know the auditors caught it and the error has been fixed,maybe not as timley as some would have wanted, but it was fixed," said Teller, adding that trustees have the right to ask the Satty, Levine & Ciacco to look into any village accounting.

Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro confirmed the errors have been addressed. She said,  "I have not received any indications from the Villages auditors or accountant that there are any alarming fiscal discrepancies. Any issues that may have recently arisen have been addressed in the most appropriate manner."

After Wednesday night's meeting, Teller said he also e-mailed the state comptroller's office to personally request an audit — "I figure everyone is so excited over this, the more the merrier."

The last time the village was audited by the state, said Teller was around 1993.

For more news from Westhampton Beach, click here.

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MLT October 11, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Maybe they overspent on the business destroyer in town ?
Hbjoker October 11, 2012 at 10:15 PM
sounds like someone is trying to hide something or there is someone trying to make someone look bad!

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