The Daily Star
A stinging state audit of financial transactions by the village of Walton, released today, concluded that the municipality's financial system is "all but non-existent."
"The mayor and the board did not ensure that the village's financial operations were functioning properly," said a report issued by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
It added that "there were inadequate controls over the records and reports, disbursements, cash receipts, payroll and purchasing processes."
The auditors also registered strong concern with what they called a lack of any internal oversight of the village's financial system.
"No one knows the actual financial position of the village, because the clerk-treasurers office performs all of the financial duties without any board oversight," the report said.
Village Mayor Patrick Meredith, who took office in April 2011, said village officials are in the process of responding to the findings and have "already implemented 90 percent of the recommendations."
Meredith told The Daily Star that false rumors have swept the village, suggesting that village government is riddled with corruption.
"There is too much of a paper trail for there to be any corruption," he said.
He attributed many of the financial management problems that have plagued the village to what he said was a lack of knowledge and training to run accounting software.
"We knew what we were spending," the $6,500-a-year mayor said. "We just didn't know where we were at financially."
Meredith said he plans to discuss the audit with village trustees on Monday. The village will formulate a full response to the audit and submit it in about two months, he said.
The report also scolded village officials for failing to verify that any of the more than $4 million in checks disbursed by the clerk-treasurer during the 2011-12 fiscal year were for proper village purposes or that the nearly $2 million disbursed and more than $460,900 received was recorded in the accounting system.
"Further," the report added, "there was no requirement for purchases to be approved prior to being ordered, and no one maintained any records to track where equipment purchases are used or stored. The failure of village officials to provide effective oversight of the financial records, ensure proper authorizations and track equipment assets leaves the village vulnerable to errors and fiscal mismanagement."
The report also pointed to the fact that the village board adopted budgets over the past seven years that increased the real property tax levy by nearly five percent annually. "In the absence of reliable records and controls over spending, there is no assurance that such increases are necessary or in the taxpayers’ best interest," the report stated.
The village of 3,088 residents had an annual budget of $4.5 million for the 2011-12 fiscal year.