Though it’s a scant eight pages (see below), an internal audit of the town’s municipal garage is particularly scathing.
Completed by the town’s independent audit advisory committee — a group formed in 2012 — the report identifies eight noteworthy deficiencies in the way the town oversees the facility and its four employees.
In fact, said committee chair Jack Orben, “There’s no daily oversight of the municipal garage.”
According to the report, employees took advantage of a town discount to make cash purchases of parts for personal vehicles. And one mechanic — with permission from his former supervisor — reportedly used the garage after hours to repair town employees’ personal cars. Fuel usage at town pumps also came under scrutiny.
While the town deserves some credit for conducting this type of audit, the report brings to light many serious concerns.
How thin can the town spread its employees before problems such as these become inevitable? In the wake of employee retirements, looping multiple town departments, including the garage, under the auspices of the engineering department seemed like a good idea. But this report leads us to believe it might have been too good to be true. One has to wonder if similar inefficiencies and misconduct are taking place in other departments where mergers have occurred.
Another question the audit raises, but doesn’t address, is who is ultimately accountable for what basically amounts to theft and misuse of Riverhead Town property.
Riverhead’s agreed-upon rates for parts are meant for town goods only — not employees’ personal benefit. Using the garage to perform paid work on other employees’ personal vehicles, even with supervisory permission, is inexcusable. And taking an “extraordinary amount of time,” as the report noted, to complete repairs that those in the private sector perform in a timely manner every day — so they can pay their bills, stay open and pay taxes back to the town — should infuriate taxpayers, particularly mechanics.
While the town discusses hiring a supervisor for the garage, which is clearly the right move, this bilking of taxpayers needs further investigation.
Additional questions need to be answered about exactly how this occurred and who is responsible to ensure it doesn’t happen again — in the municipal garage or any other town department.