WAWARSING — The Town of Wawarsing failed to properly oversee its former account clerk, who double-paid a vendor that was a relative and pocketed $500 from her health insurance policy that she was supposed to reimburse, according to a new state audit.
Plus, Town of Wawarsing leaders did not properly monitor the town’s $5.3 million annual budget, allowing no-bid contracts for public works projects and giving some bidders advantages, according to the audit.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued the financial audit of the town budget, released Monday. It mostly examines June 1, 2014, to May 31, 2015, while going back as far as 2009.
A separate comptroller audit, also released Monday, indicated improper record-keeping, from Jan. 1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2016, for the town's $200,941 annual recreation department budget.
According to the comptroller’s main budget audit, Wawarsing’s former supervisor confronted a senior account clerk about bidding and financial irregularities, leading the employee to resign in May 2015. Then, the supervisor requested a comptroller investigation.
Though names aren’t stated in the report, Leonard Distel was supervisor at the time. Current Wawarsing Supervisor Terry Houck confirmed that Bea Haugen Depuy was the senior account clerk. Depuy is currently a Town of Rochester board member.
Three public works projects, totaling $368,683, were needlessly declared emergencies by town officials, negating requirements to advertise for and solicit quotes, the comptroller found. In one emergency bridge repair project, a vendor got an unfair chance to lower a bid to win the contract.
Another emergency repair contract included an extra $26,300 for project enhancements and work, raising the contract's total to $195,214, despite the town board only approving $168,914.
Plus, the senior account clerk double-paid $86,154 to a vendor, who was a relative, and kept health insurance premium money she was supposed to reimburse the town, the audit found.
“I’ve been working with the present town clerk and reviewing and looking at bidding documents to make sure they’re stamped and dated” and properly handled, Houck said. “I’m confident that’s being done and that (proper oversight) is going to continue.”
Houck said he takes seriously the need to safeguard taxpayer dollars, and the town is pursuing the health insurance money from Depuy. The town has 90 days, beginning last Monday, to submit a corrective action plan to the comptroller, Houck added.
Tanya Lopez, a DiNapoli spokeswoman, said such audits are vital to help local governments “find waste and abuse,” so they can “operate ethically and more efficiently.”