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The Dansville Online
  • Springwater gets another strike from state auditor

  • The state Office of the State Comptroller wrapped up its recent audit in Springwater and released the results to the public last week. It’s the second audit in recent months to find problems in Springwater’s local government. In November, it was the town’s fire district; this time it was the town itself.

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  • The state Office of the State Comptroller wrapped up its recent audit in Springwater and released the results to the public last week. It’s the second audit in recent months to find problems in Springwater’s local government. In November, it was the town’s fire district; this time it was the town itself.
    Chief among the problems noted in the audit is the purchase of the Wormuth property. Auditors noted that the town “purchased the property for almost $13,000 without the public’s knowledge, has not put this property to use for a town purpose, and may incur additional costs to keep it.”
    Other concerns related to the bidding procedure for a truck with a $91,750 price tag as well as ensuring proper segregation of duties and procedures for billing in the water and sewer department.
     
    Property purchase
    In December, 2008, the town purchased a property that had been listed for public auction, located at the corner of state routes 15 and 15A.
    The audit outlined a timeline of payments related to the property. On Dec. 17, 2008, the town’s former supervisor, Nori Buckley, paid $6,500. However, there is no record of approval in an open meeting, as required by state law. This payment went to “an individual that did not own the property,” according to the audit report and Buckley was unable to provide a reason for the payment.
    In April 2009, the town paid $135 for recording fees, also without board approval and not listed on a voucher.
    In October 2010, the town paid the back taxes on the property, totalling $4,698. This time, the amount was listed on a voucher, but auditors discovered that Buckley had stored the record at a location other than the town hall; however, state law requires all town officials to store records at the town offices so they are subject to request and review under the Freedom of Information Law.
    Finally, another payment for $1,658 in unpaid taxes was approved, but not dated by the town board.
    Among its recommendations, the state Comptroller’s Office recommended that the town consult with an attorney and consider both recovering funds that were misappropriated and referring the matter to law enforcement.
    The town’s supervisor, Deborah Babbitt-Henry, who took office just two months ago, explained that there will likely be litigation related to the property purchase. She said the matter would be referred to the Livingston County District Attorney’s Office.
    “There is some potential for serious litigation,” Babbitt-Henry said. “I take the misappropriation of town funds very much to heart.”
    She declined to comment further, noting pending litigation.
     
    Page 2 of 2 - Truck purchase
    The audit noted a truck purchase of $91,750 was not in compliance with state bidding rules. The audit found that the bidding specifications were overly restrictive and the town only received one bid.
    The audit recommended that town correct its bidding practices in the future and consider rejecting sole bidders.
     
    Water and sewer
    Springwater operates a water and sewer district, but the audit report indicated there were inadequate controls in place to ensure proper accounting.
    Specifically, the same employee is responsible for checking meters, preparing bills, collecting funds and making bank deposits.
    Auditors found no evidence of accounting discrepancies, but recommended that the town segregate duties over billing and collection of water and sewer rates.
    Further, the audit recommended the town set written policies related to billing, collection and enforcement. The audit found the board did not approve the list of delinquent accounts for re-levy, and recommended correction along with a policy setting water and sewer charges.
    To date, most of those issues have been corrected. Babbitt-Henry said the town is currently working with Five Star Bank to collect water and sewer bills directly, eliminating those functions from the water and sewer supervisor’s job.
     
    Fiscal oversight
    In the final section of the audit, the Comptroller’s Office reviewed the relationship between the town and its accountant, Baldwin Business Services in Nunda.
    The state audit noted that the town should be conducting audits of all accounts on an annual basis, but was not. Also, the town did not have a contract with Baldwin, outlining services provided and compensation to be paid. The audit recommended the supervisor oversee the accountant’s work and ensure financial records are maintained at the town hall, as required by state law.

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