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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Press Releases

May 15, 2014, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

DiNapoli: Town of Altona Official Misused $23,500

The former bookkeeper in the town of Altona in Clinton County altered cash receipts in order to embezzle $23,500 in public funds, according to an audit and investigation released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“This individual controlled town finances with little oversight and had no difficulty in pocketing public money,” said DiNapoli. “Unfortunately, my office continues to uncover instances such as this where local officials are taking advantage of lax financial controls and helping themselves to the money in the public till. We have referred our findings to Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie.”

DiNapoli’s audit revealed that, between 2009 and 2013, town officials could not account for all moneys remitted to the bookkeeper and ensure they were deposited and properly recorded in the accounting records.

Auditors found that the bookkeeper – Danielle Peryea, 34 – frequently altered receipts to show a lower amount collected from the park director and code enforcement officer. DiNapoli’s auditors found that $18,586 in park and recreation fees, $4,146 in code enforcement fees and $800 in town hall rental fees were not deposited. In August 2013, after learning of the Comptroller’s audit, the former bookkeeper remitted the missing money to town officials, but claimed it was a “donation” to the town.

Later, the former bookkeeper admitted to DiNapoli’s investigators that over a four year period, between 2009 and 2013, she altered town receipts and took town money without permission.

The Comptroller’s audit and investigation also revealed:

  • The bookkeeper allowed checks to remain on hand for weeks or months before deposit, including five undeposited checks totaling nearly $338,000;
  • The bookkeeper altered copies of 19 park-fee receipts to show a total amount of nearly $10,709 lower than what the park manager actually remitted;
  • The town does not have complete, accurate and up-to-date accounting records, and the town supervisor did not perform proper monthly bank reconciliations; and
  • The town board did not audit the records of the supervisor, tax collector, town clerk, code enforcement officer and park manager.

DiNapoli made several recommendations to the town, including:

  • Adopt written policies over cash receipts that address collection, recording and depositing. The policies should require segregating incompatible functions related to cash receipts;
  • Review supporting documentation and approve journal entries prior to the bookkeeper recording the entries in the central accounting system;
  • Perform complete and accurate monthly bank reconciliations and ensure that any differences disclosed by the reconciliation process are promptly identified and resolved;
  • Conduct an annual audit of the records and reports of all town officers and employees who received or disbursed money during the preceding fiscal year or hire an independent auditor to conduct the audits; and
  • Identify the financial reports that the supervisor should prepare to help manage town finances and evaluate its financial condition.

Town officials agreed with the audit findings and have begun to implement many of the Comptroller’s recommendations. Their response is included in the final audit report, which can be viewed here:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/towns/2014/altona.pdf

DiNapoli encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at investigations@osc.state.ny.us, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Investigations Unit, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.

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