04/10/14 12:00pm
04/10/2014 12:00 PM
North Shore Public Library budget vote scheduled for April 2, 2013

North Shore Public Library. (Credit: file photo)

Leaders of the North Shore Public Library may need to take out some books on financial accounting.

The office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued an audit in late March reporting that the library district consistently overcharged taxpayers, saving up the extra funds without informing the public that the money wasn’t being spent.  (more…)

08/22/13 8:00am
08/22/2013 8:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO  |  County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, center, listens to a 2012 presentation on the county's fiscal situation.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, center, listens to a 2012 presentation on the county’s fiscal situation.

Suffolk County’s plan to merge the elected comptroller and treasurer positions into one job with one staff is supposed to save more than $800,000 annually. Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone, now with the overwhelming support of the county Legislature, has been pushing the measure, saying it would eliminate duplicative jobs.

The consolidation proposal goes to voters countywide through a referendum on Election Day, when it will likely pass. (Who wouldn’t vote to trim county jobs?)

But current county Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who is running for re-election in November to a position that’s likely to be eliminated, has screamed foul. She calls this a cynical, purely political move meant only to allow Republican Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, expected to be appointed as interim chief financial officer, to sidestep his expiring term limits and be able to run for that new position in 2014. Ms. Carpenter, a Republican, has also argued that consolidating the positions would rob the county of necessary checks and balances when it comes to fiscal matters — although, last we looked, those checks and balances haven’t worked so well in recent years in Suffolk County, which faces massive budget deficits.

It’s entirely possible that revenge politics are involved, as Ms. Carpenter — Mr. Bellone’s Republican rival in the 2011 race for county executive — has alleged. But pundits could also speculate that Mr. Bellone is trying to prevent Mr. Sawicki — county government’s one elected Republican outside the Legislature — from challenging his re-election bid. Either way, so what? No matter the motivation, a good idea is a good idea. Keep in mind that Suffolk is the only county in the state that still has two fiscal positions; this consolidation should have been done years ago. If the politics are finally right for such a move, the opportunity should be taken.

08/30/12 1:00pm
08/30/2012 1:00 PM

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Fire district headquarters on Roanoke Avenue.

The Riverhead Fire District has inadequate procedures for hiring professional services and paid more than $780,000 to three professionals without a written agreement stating the rate of compensation, a recent New York State Comptroller advisory audit of the district found.

The state also found the district did not have enough control over remote access of the district’s data.

The audit, which examined the district for the period of Jan. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011, states the district didn’t solicit “competitive proposals” for any of the professional services that were examined. Three of those professionals were hired without a resolution or written agreement stating their rate of pay; the professionals were eventually paid $787,697, according to the audit.

Four of the remaining six professional service contracts that totaled $301,860 were paid out using agreements that included “open-ended terms.”

The lack of competitive bids for work, as well as unclear rates of pay, meant officials could not guarantee the services were “procured in the most prudent and economical manner,” according to the audit.

The Fire District is funded primarily through property taxes.

The state audit recommended the fire district use “competitive methods” to hire professional services and have written agreements for all professionals hired that includes the cost of the services.

In a written response to the state from the district’s chairman, Dennis Hamill, he said that the district is not required to put out competitive bids under General Municipal Law, and said the board “routinely” monitors the costs of the services, using rate schedules.

Many of the professional services must be completed in a short period of time, Mr. Hamill added.

“The nature of these services are such that they do not readily lend themselves to competitive procurement procedures,” Mr. Hamill wrote. “The Board is confident that professional services were obtained to provide the knowledge and skill needed in each instance at a fair price.”

In a response to the district’s letter, the state said that rate schedules “do not constitute or replace” written agreements.

The audit also stated the Board of Commissioners does not have a policy to “monitor or control remote access,” which allows certain service provider and managers to access the district’s computer system through the Internet.

According to the study, the holes in monitoring and controlling remote access could allow data to be manipulated and “could lead to the loss of important [financial] data and cause serious interruption to the District’s operations.”

The audit suggests the board should create a “comprehensive computer use policy” to protect their data from tampering, and better define who can access the district’s system.

Mr. Hamill wrote that the district has established a procedure to “closely monitor and limit” remote access, and will obtain access logs of who uses the system.

The district is not bound to follow the audit’s recommendations, comptroller’s office spokesman Brian Butry said, adding that the audit serves to bring potential issues to light.

It is up to each audited party to respond to the findings, he said.

“These are just recommendations,” Mr. Butry said “These audits are advisory in nature.”

psquire@timesreview.com