Comptroller critical of Carlton for managing town finances

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 March 2018 at 12:10 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: A Carlton town sign notes the community is the “Ultimate Fishing Town.” The town received a $25,000 grant for winning that contest. The state comptroller said expenses from that $25,000 award weren’t audited and presented to the Town Board for approval.

CARLTON – An audit from the State Comptroller’s Office is critical of Carlton Town Supervisor Gayle Ashbery for her handling of the town’s finances.

The comptroller says Ashbery did not ensure accounting records were accurate and did not have deposit receipts in a timely manner.

“We found that 93 percent of receipts reviewed totaling $1.47 million were deposited, on average, 35 days after receipt,” according to the audit. (Click here to see the report.)

The town’s annual budget is $2.5 million. A five-member Town Board governs the town and is led by Ashbery, the town supervisor.

“We appreciate the issues raised by the NYS Comptroller in its audit,” Ashbery wrote to the comptroller’s office on Feb. 7. “It has helped us recognize areas where we can improve. We believe we have addressed many of them and we will continue to address other issues that small municipalities likes ours face.”

The comptroller’s office reviewed town finances from Jan. 1, 2015 to Oct. 2, 2017.

• Some of the specific concerns identified by the comptroller include a $25,000 award from the World Fishing Network after Point Breeze won the Ultimate Fish Town contest.

The comptroller said the town supervisor did not properly account for and report cash receipts and disbursements relating to the $25,000.

The Supervisor deposited the money in its own separate bank account and made 34 disbursements totaling $19,619 from the account during the period September 1, 2013 through August 31, 2017, the comptroller said.

However, the supervisor did not have the bookkeeping firm record the receipt or disbursements in the town’s accounting records and did not report the activity to the Town Board.

The comptroller reviewed the bank statements and cancelled check images, and discussed the payments with town officials and found the payments were appropriate, although they weren’t audited or approved by the board.

• The comptroller also highlighted a 2015 mortgage tax payment of $18,733 from Orleans County that was not deposited or recorded in Town records until April 2016. That resulted in the revenue being recorded in the wrong fiscal year for which it was intended.

“Had the Supervisor been performing an appropriate review of the monthly financial reports and budget to actual comparisons, it would have been apparent the Town had not received its mortgage tax payment as budgeted,” the audit states.

• The Supervisor also misplaced two checks totaling $2,015 from the town justices, who remitted the April 2016 collections of fines and fees to the Supervisor on May 2, 2016. The justices had to reissue the checks several months later because the town supervisor never deposited the original checks.

• The comptroller also faulted the town supervisor for not submitting an annual accounting to the Town Board for fiscal years 2015 and 2016, and not providing the public accountant hired to audit the books and records with adequate information. “As a result, the 2015 and 2016 annual audits have not been performed.”

• The comptroller recommended Carlton maintain complete and accurate accounting records and deposit all money in a timely manner. The town supervisor also needs to submit annual financial reports to the Town Board and cooperate with the public accountant hired to audit the books and records.

In her response to the Comptroller’s Office on Feb. 7, Ashbery acknowledged the audit is “highly critical of the fiscal oversight” for the audit period from Jan. 1, 2015 to Oct. 2, 2017.

“We also understand that we are a small municipality where elected officials are part-time,” she wrote. “We have made changes during this audit period by engaging professional services that will supplement our ability to be available to meet our fiscal responsibilities and to ensure that accounting records are accurate and complete.”

Ashbery also said the town is depositing receipts in a timely manner and has engaged a CPA firm to audit the town books.

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