Please read the entire audit and response from the Corfu Fire District before making assumptions that the fire dept. acted inappropriately. Too often people read just the catchy headline and not the entire story and assume the whole department is not running correctly
Comptroller's office finds alleged improprieties in Corfu Fire District finances
Submitted by Howard Owens on September 12, 2011 - 10:51pm
A NYS audit of the Corfu Fire District released today (pdf) says that fire district board members have not completed proper annual audits and that such audits would have found unauthorized personal use of district credit cards.
The fire district collects taxes to help fund the Corfu Fire Department, but is a separate entity from the fire department.
Its annual budget is more than $112,000.
The NYS Office of the Comptroller examined the district's financial records for 2008 through 2011.
Among the findings was that allegedly the district treasurer and a former fire chief made personal purchases with district credit cards totalling $2,045.
The report states that the treasurer confirmed $601 in purchases made in June and July of 2009 were for personal items.
The former chief allegedly made purchases reportedly for $779 from July through December 2008. His January 2008 bill also included a balance due of $665, according to the report.
Neither the former chief nor the treasurer are named in the report, but the report states these charges were reimbursed to the district, though it's unclear when the reimbursements took place.
According to the comptroller's office, district credit card balances included $1,600 in interest and late fees.
The district paid $380 in fees and interest, but only authorized $142 of these payments, according to the report.
"If the board had properly reviewed the actual credit card monthly billing statement," the report reads, "it would have seen that the amount on the abstract was greater than the amount due for legitimate district purchases."
The report, issued to the district on Sept. 2, offers four recommendations, including that the board: formerly adopt a credit card policy; audit every claim before approving payment; require annual financial reports issued to the comptroller's office; and that the treasurer make payments directly to vendors as authorized by the board.
In a response letter, Board Chairman Robert Ammon says that the district will adopt a former credit card policy and that it adopted internal financial controls in 2009. He also says the district has sought and received assistance from the controller's office on filing proper reports, and that the board will document concerns and require further back up for any questionable expenditures.
The response letter states that reports were not filed with the state previously because of technical difficulties involved in meeting new requirements by the state.
The letter does not directly address the issue of unauthorized use of district credit cards for personal purchases.
I hope this is just some accounting error, or error in reporting. This is sad for our local department. There are very many good men and women who serve.
The department itself did not act inappropriately. Two members in controlling positions of the district and fire dept. acted inappropriately. They manipulated the system and finances to benefit themselves and take advantage of a volunteer organization and its members. They are dragging the departments name and the names of its volunteers through the dirt. They should be ashamed of themselves. This was no accounting error. It's called Grand Larceny. And they should be held accountable for their criminal actions.
After reading the audit report and response, I don't see malfeasance or graft; I see local firemen- good at fire-fighting but a little clumsy keeping the books. From the sounds of it, they've focused on areas that need improvement, managed to acquire some guidance and initiated corrective action. The 'breaking' news: Corfu Fire District Responds to Audit Findings. (The OSC had to have reported findings weeks ago; the fire department response was dated August 18th.)
My two cents: get rid of all but one credit card and lock it up- only to be used for expenses where no other reimbursement method is acceptable (EG- hotels). Add another monthly meeting for approving expenditures.
Volunteer firefighters are a valued part of any community, but I would hardly call using taxpayers money for their own personal use "a little clumsy".
Barbara asked readers to review the entire report before passing judgment. I did - twice. I'm embarrassed and angered by the actions of those officers. While I respect the job firefighters do, if they were paid employees in almost any other situation, they would be facing legal charges. These may have been actions of just two (2) individuals, but they had a check and balance system to. By not catching it, their actions were condoned by others. Shame on all of you.