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Jan 11, 2013 5:29 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Comptroller Finishes Financial Assessment; Won't Audit Westhampton Beach Village Books

Jan 15, 2013 4:59 PM

The state comptroller’s office will not audit Westhampton Beach Village’s books after a risk assessment completed last week determined that the municipality’s finances are in order, according to Mayor Conrad Teller.

“They said that there was no red flags flying, there was no nothing,” Mr. Teller said Monday afternoon regarding the financial examination that was completed last Wednesday, January 9, by a pair of auditors from the state comptroller’s office. It was triggered by a payroll error during the 2011-12 fiscal year that resulted in the village’s employees being overpaid by approximately $22,000. The village is taking corrective measures to recoup the funds.

“There is no money missing,” the mayor later added. “Our other auditors have been in and haven’t raised any red flags,” he said, referring to village’s auditing firm, Satty, Levine & Ciacco of Jericho, which is now examining the entire village budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year and recalculating the payroll figures to ensure that the employees are being properly paid. The audit is expected to be completed within the next two weeks.

State examiners, however, will be conducting a comprehensive audit of the village’s information technology and computer systems in the coming weeks, according to the mayor, after finding several weaknesses in those areas, namely outdated computers and security systems, and questionable backup procedures.

The financial examination completed last week, called a “risk assessment,” was requested by Mr. Teller after the payroll error was discovered last year. Divided over which direction to take, the Village Board also requested that the village’s auditing firm examine the entire village budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year for an extra fee.

Brian Butry, a spokesman for the state comptroller’s office, said Tuesday that he could only confirm that his office has completed the risk assessment and that “no further determination has been made at this time” regarding what actions, if any, that the state will take in Westhampton Beach. Both Mr. Teller and Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker, who sat down separately with the state auditors last week to discuss the findings of their assessment, said they were told that the state would return to conduct the audit focusing on the village’s IT and computer systems.

Unlike the mayor, Mr. Tucker argues that the risk assessment did raise a few red flags, pointing to the village’s outdated procurement policy, an ineffective purchase order system and the completion of purchases without first seeking requests for proposals, the latter of which, he said, “isn’t necessarily breaking the law but is a matter of best business practices.”

Mr. Tucker also stated that Mr. Teller failed to protect taxpayers when he denied for several months that no overpayments were made to village employees—an allegation that was dismissed by the mayor. Mr. Teller said measures have been taken to address the payroll error, but that certain board members, led by Mr. Tucker, are using that mistake to build an argument to fire Village Clerk and Treasurer Rebecca Molinaro.

“It’s definitely personal,” Mr. Teller said of Mr. Tucker’s desire to terminate the village clerk. “Hank has asked me twice, probably three times, to let her go. He had no confidence in her.

“The payroll error is nickel-and-dime stuff—it happens,” the mayor continued. “They cannot fire her. I have to do it, and they have to come up with gross negligence. There’s nothing there.”

“I can’t discuss specifics about a particular employee with you at present,” Mr. Tucker wrote in an email when asked if he is seeking, or has sought, Ms. Molinaro’s termination. “That’s not legal. The fact that the mayor does shows his lack of ethics.”

The deputy mayor is also insisting that Mr. Teller, as the village’s budget officer, has approved certain payouts that, in Mr. Tucker’s opinion, should have been reviewed first by the entire board.

“He didn’t protect the taxpayers when he approved legal payouts of close to $3,000 without Board knowledge and approval,” Mr. Tucker wrote in an email. “He didn’t protect the taxpayers when he paid an employee $9,000 without Board knowledge and approval. If any of these issues turns out not to be illegal, they certainly aren’t how the taxpayers expect their government to manage or spend their money.”

When asked for details about those specific payouts, Mr. Tucker wrote: “I can’t release that now. I will let you know as soon as we can.”

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So Mr. Tucker was unavailable for comment, doesn't surprise me at all his little game didn't work out like he wanted. Election Day is coming in June lets get rid of Tucker and his cronies once and for all and bring some civility to Village Hall once again.
By westendoftown (18), whb on Jan 11, 13 6:41 PM