The Westhampton Beach Village Board of Trustees unanimously adopted an audit report conducted at their request in December, closing another chapter in a series of financial reviews for the municipality.
The roughly 300-page report, conducted by Jericho-based firm Satty, Levine & Ciacco, outlines several deficiencies—particularly in the areas of payroll and unauthorized spending—at Village Hall that the trustees want to clamp down on. At a board meeting last Thursday night, May 9, the board voted, 4-1, in favor of installing tighter restrictions on Mayor Conrad Teller in the hope of sparing the village future problems.
“We can fix this and move forward in this village,” Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker said on Thursday.
The restrictions were put in place via resolution read into the public record by Mr. Tucker, that seeks to put a system of “checks and balances” into place for the village. The checks, according to Mr. Tucker, include having the entire board vote on spending and restricting the mayor from making “executive decisions” that are not defined by Village Code.
“Other than typical salaries, utilities, fixed monthly payments based upon prior contractual agreements approved by the Village Board, emergencies or public safety overtime and payments where an existing collective bargaining agreement requires payment sooner than Village Board meetings,” the resolution reads, “any other payments, bills, invoices or contractual employee payments such as but not limited to compensatory time, shall not be paid without the prior approval of the Board of Trustees.”
This week, Mr. Teller said although the trustees put the checks in place, the payments he authorized were contractual. He said if they want to re-approve payments they authorized when signing a contract, they can, but he thinks it is unnecessary.
“The board has approved the contracts and the board has approved a budget,” Mr. Teller said. “What do they have to do, approve it a third time? It is unnecessary, but if they want to meddle, I could care less.”
The checks and balances were deemed necessary by trustees after discovering several payments, authorized by the mayor, that trustees did not know about. The payments include buyback vacation time from village Police Chief Ray Dean and a six-month sick leave for a former building department employee, Susan O’Rourke.
The report, which was received by the trustees in March, was authorized after a payroll error made by former Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro was unearthed by the board in October.
According to the mayor, due to a calculation error, the village overpaid all village employees a total of $22,000. In October, the board hired Scott Augustine to conduct an investigation into village finances, and in December he recommended the village hire its annual auditing firm, Satty, Levine, and Ciacco, to create the report and investigate the error, plus the contractual payments.
At that time, it was discovered that a second payroll error was made while correcting the original mistake. It is expected that both mistakes, which were recalculated in the audit, will be corrected by the end of the fiscal year at the end of this month.
Since the original payroll error was discovered in September, the board has also delayed action on several budget transfers that they said were affected by the ongoing investigation. Last week, the board unanimously approved those transfers, which total more than $213,000, and include the litigation, personal attorney, police, and detectives and police overtime lines of the budget.
With the transfers approved, the village can now officially close out the books on the 2011-2012 fiscal year books.
“I just like to see it get off the books and get moving,” Mr. Teller said.