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ECFD Residents complain to State Comptroller

Seek renewed oversight
by Stephen Kaye
Sun Dec 4th, 2016

Two dozen residents of the East Clinton Fire District wrote a letter, dated Dec. 2, to the NY State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, asking that he require the district to comply with the recommendations specified in the comptroller’s 2014 audit.   The letter cites the lack of transparency by which the district does business, and particularly its failure to make public and file its financial statements for 2014 and 2015 as required by state law.

The letters notes the following irregularities:

“The audited financial report for 2014 was filed with the Town Clerk nine months late, on April 21, 2016.  But the auditors declined to vouch for the report, so we taxpayers -- and the ECFD board -- still don’t have independently verified information on the district’s financial operations.

“The financial report for 2015, which was due June 30, has been audited but not filed with the Town Clerk.  The chairperson of the ECFD has complained at recent public meetings of the board that the auditors made unspecified mistakes and won’t discuss them with the commissioners.  The chairperson seems not to understand that independent auditors are independent because they are supposed to express their expert opinion -- not negotiate the writing of a love letter.”

It mentions the past failures cited in the comptrollers 2014 report:

"In addition to the untimely filing of audited financial reports, your examination revealed loans of public funds to fire company members that were not repaid and the questionable high compensation of the secretary-treasurer.  During the 16-month audit period, your investigation found that the secretary-treasurer was paid $113,340 for work done at an hourly rate of $20-- which “would equate to the Secretary-Treasurer working over 11 hours a day, seven days a week, every week, for 16 months." 

“As you may recall, your critical 2014 report on the ECFD came on the heels of former ECFD board chair Carl Germann's arrest for the alleged embezzlement of up to $130,000 in public funds. He died before he went to trial. The stolen money was never found and the financial records are missing.”

The treasurer mentioned above is still the treasurer.  Two present commissioners were members when the loans and the embezzlement of funds took place. One is now the chairperson.   

The letter asks that: 

 "We urge you to swiftly ensure the ECFD files the audited 2015 financial report.   Because taxpayers will vote December 13, 2016, to elect an ECFD Commissioner and a treasurer, the missing 2015 financial report and the auditors’ opinion of it are especially vital to informed decision making."

The Comptroller is the only authority to which fire districts report.  Districts are supposed to file their reports within 180 days of the close of the year.  The Comptroller publishes regulations governing fire districts.  

Editorial note: The Blast of Dec. 2 was in error in saying that Bob Trzcinski and Macy Sherow were running against incumbents. Trzcinsky is running against Dan Harkenrider for the open commissioner position and Macy Sherow is running against Thomas O’Brien for the treasurer position.  The current treasurer, Maryann Thompsett is not seeking another termTrzcinsky and Sherow have the support of the taxpayer group that seeks changes in the district’s reporting and management policy.