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Missing funds at Town Hall; Laura Hurley admits taking them

by Stephen Kaye
Wed Aug 3rd, 2016

Nina Schutzman of the Poughkeepsie Journal broke the story on Monday that Laura Hurley, former bookkeeper of the Town of Washington and mayor of the Village, is being investigated for theft of funds from the town’s account. 

While the story says that Hurley admits she misappropriated funds during a time of personal stress, the matter seems to be pending.  The matter is under investigation by the State Police according to the Poughkeepsie Journal report. 

Laura Hurley was once a commanding presence at the Town Hall and at the Village Hall. She was the one person who could answer questions, who knew the answers, and who understood the arcane bookkeeping used in municipal finance.  When she was no longer seen at Town Hall, and infrequently seen at the Village Hall, people, including this paper, asked questions. 

Gary Ciferri, the town supervisor, who the Poughkeepsie Journal reported as one of the sources of its story and who brought in the police, told this paper only three weeks ago that there was no story. There was a story, and it is now public.

The staff in the town office said simply said that Laura was no longer the bookkeeper.   They were, it seems, told not to say anything.

In the Village Hall, the scene was much the same.  No one would say anything.  “Where’s Laura?”  No one knew.

Calls to Laura’s cell phone were not returned.  It was known that Laura Hurley’s personal life was difficult, compounded by health problems.  That was the excuse given for her not being at her accustomed post. 

When we contacted Town Supervisor Ciferri early today, he said the town has been advised by its attorney, Vanderwater & Vanderwater, to say nothing pending the investigation.  Somehow, it was leaked to the Poughkeepsie Journal that the investigation was pending.  

Ciferri confirmed that Laura was let go as bookkeeper after it was discovered that funds were missing in late 2015.  The town board met in executive session.  The minutes of that session, if any were kept, have not been made public. 

Ciferro said the town discovered the missing funds as a result of an audit which is just now nearing completion.  There was only one instance of funds being misdirected.  He would not reveal the amounts, but did say they had not been returned.  If the funds are not recovered, they will be covered by the town’s indemnity insurance. 

Mayor Laura Hurley and Warren MacMillan at the tree lighting ceremony in 2010. Photo from TMI archives by Carola Lott.