The Village News: Editorials

July 28, 2014

Bellport Village Fails State Comptroller’s Office Audit


EditorialRecently, the New York State Comptroller’s Office did a routine audit of Bellport Village’s financial practices and the Village failed the audit. I didn’t comment at that time and decided to instead simply publish an article explaining that the audit had taken place, some information about it, what the results of the audit were, and provide a copy of the actual audit report for our readers to review. Click Here for a copy of the audit report.

I decided to not comment at that time because the July Village Board meeting was coming up and I assumed Mayor Fell would explain that the Village had been audited, what the results of the audit were, the implications of those results, and the specific steps he and the rest of the Village Board were going to take to correct the problems found. I also expected him to announce that because the results of the audit were so poor, there would be a follow up audit of some kind in maybe six months to determine if the changes made had worked and identify any further actions that needed to take place.

Well, at the July Village Board meeting there was no mention of the State Audit by either Mayor Fell or any of the other members of the Village Board. The only reason it came up at all was because, four minutes before the end of the meeting, a Village resident specifically asked the Mayor to summarize the results of the State audit. The Mayor’s 1.5 minute answer was...

•  “The audit was of the 2012 year through October of 2013.”

•  The State found inconsistencies.

•  The Village’s “sole source” purchasing policies at the golf course were mentioned.

•  The Village has to do a better job of following its procurement policies.

•  “Hopefully, five years from when we’re audited again this will be taken care of and there won’t be any problems.”

•  "The good news is that they found irregularities, but there's no theft or things like that."

•  Trustee Rosenberg: "This is 2012 we're talking about."

Frankly, I was stunned that this was all Mayor Fell had to say and how unfamiliar he seemed to be with the details of the audit. The State hadn’t just found “inconsistencies.” In my opinion the Village had completely and totally failed the audit. Let me explain.

The State had chosen an 18 month period from June 1, 2012 to November 30, 2013 to audit, not just 2012 as Trustee Rosenberg had mentioned or the time period Mayor Fell had mentioned. This Board, with the exception of Trustee McGrath, was in office for 5 of those 18 months and one current Trustee was in office for the entire time period.

To say that this was a superficial audit is an understatement. Rather than the State reviewing all of the Village’s financial practices, it was instead limited ONLY to the Village’s “Claims Processing” practices, or how the Village pays its bills and of the 3,144 bills processed during the time period of the audit, the State only randomly selected 25 bills to be audited. ONLY 25! And, of those 25 random bills that were audited, all, ALL, were found to be “deficient for one or more reasons” by the State Comptroller’s Office. At the conclusion of the audit, the judgment of the State Comptroller’s Office was that, “The deficiencies identified during our review of claims illustrate that the Board is not properly auditing claims.”

This is serious. Considering the past history of Village Hall’s financial practices, you would think the Mayor would take the State Comptroller’s Office’s conclusions more seriously. You certainly wouldn’t wait another five years to see how you’re doing.

And where is the auditing company the Village pays thousands of dollars to each year in all of this? What do they have to say? Exactly what are they auditing and how has all of this gotten past them for so long?

I hope Mayor Fell and the Village Board finally takes this audit as a wakeup call and gets moving. I hope they take the August Village Board meeting as an opportunity to explain to the community the audit, what they are doing to correct the problems found, and when and how they plan on re-auditing themselves to see how effective their actions have been. I also hope that if they decide to re-audit themselves, they look at all of the financial practices of the Village and not just the bill paying procedures.



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Larry Sribnick

Larry Sribnick