COLDSPRING - Following an audit of the town of Coldspring by the office of the state comptroller, several inconsistencies were found surrounding town clerk operations.
The audit examined the reports of Lori Stacey, former Coldspring town clerk, for the period of Jan. 1, 2010, through March 26, 2013.
According to the comptroller's report, the inconsistencies occurred because, "The clerk did not issue press-numbered duplicate receipts for cash collected, accurately record all transactions, timely remit moneys due to the supervisor and other entities, such as the county, nor deposit cash receipts intact or timely. In addition, the clerk inappropriately intermingled her personal financial activity with the town's business. The board also did not provide adequate oversight of the clerk or document its annual audit of the clerk's records and related results in the minutes of its proceedings."
Subsequent to the completion of the comptroller's fieldwork, Stacey resigned her position on May 1, 2013.
The state comptroller submitted a list of nine recommendations to the town of Coldspring, and Cathie VanSickle, town of Coldspring supervisor, said the town is in agreement of the comptroller's preliminary draft findings.
In the comptroller's report, multiple actions which are incongruous with good business practices are enumerated. According to the report, the following poor business practices were found:
The clerk did not issue duplicate receipts for transactions where no other evidence of receipt was available.
The clerk did not maintain an adequate cash receipts journal to document individual collections, and additionally did not always record payee names in the accounting records and did not record the dates that transactions occurred, only the month during which the transaction took place.
The clerk did not make deposits in a timely fashion. Town law requires that clerk monies collected be deposited within three business days after the total exceeds $250. Additionally, good business practices dictate that all receipts, if the total does not exceed $250, be deposited on a weekly basis to reduce the risk of loss. The comptroller found that, of the 44 deposits including 207 checks during the audit period, 179 of which, totaling $11,196.70, were deposited, on average, 33 days late. As a result of the deposits not being made timely, the clerk's bank account was charged non-sufficient funds fees and overdraft fees 14 times from 2010 through 2012, totaling $365. The clerk stated that she covered the non-sufficient funds and overdraft fees in cash from personal funds.
The comptroller performed a cash count and accountability analysis as of March 26, 2013, using available receipt records, bank compositions, and bank statements, and found a shortage in the clerk's account totalling $1,400.16. Also, within the deposit compositions, the comptroller found 43 checks that were deposited into the clerk's account for town transactions between 2010 and 2013 that were not recorded in the clerk's records or remitted to the supervisor or other appropriate agencies, totaling $1,050.50.
The clerk's records for marriage licenses were incomplete; the most recent licenses that the clerk had on hand were from 2010, and there were license numbers missing from the sequence.
On 17 occasions during the auditing period, the clerk deposited personal checks totaling $3,165.08, substituting them for cash collections. Additionally, four checks totaling $955.52, apparently intended for payment to the Steamburg Cemetery Association, were deposited in the clerk's bank account. The clerk stated that she found $955.52 in cash in her safe at home and this cash was from Cemetery Association activity. She stated that the checks deposited in the clerk account from the Cemetery Association were deposited by mistake and she deposited the cash into her Cemetery Association account.
The clerk combined her personal business with the town's business, which creates a substantial risk that the clerk could receive cash and not properly record and report it, and this activity may go undetected by town officials. Due to this poor practice, town officials cannot track all cash receipt transactions and the risk of fraud is significant.
While the clerk prepared and submitted monthly reports in a timely manner, she did not always record everything from her records on these reports. She also did not remit all monies received by her to the supervisor or other appropriate agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture and Markets for dog licenses, the Department of Health for marriage licenses, and the County Department of Public Works for dump tickets.
The town of Coldspring has since implemented a corrective audit plan, and has filled the opening left by Stacey's departure with Marilyn Bowley.
VanSickle did not return The Post-Journal's calls.
To view the state comptroller's report in full, visit osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/town s/2013/coldspring.htm.