Sag Harbor Village Trustee Ed Deyermond called for an external audit of the recently completed remediation project at Havens Beach on Tuesday night.
Completed by Keith Grimes Inc., the work entailed installing a bio-filtration system and vegetating a drainage ditch, as well as removing sediment and putting a fence around a ditch. It was supposed to cost $500,000, with the village paying about half and the county and state splitting the other half.
Mr. Deyermond went on to say that “unexplained expenditures” have brought the project to at least $533,000, by his count, but said part of the problem in his accounting was confusing numbers that had been provided.
“I’m trying to add it all up, and I’m at a total loss as to how all these numbers come together,” he said. “I’d just like to see this whole thing audited. I can’t make heads or tails out of these numbers, and we keep getting additional bills.”
Saying that he’d like the village’s partners in the project, Suffolk County and New York State, to have their comptrollers do the audit, Mr. Deyermond explained that his request stemmed from almost monthly items on the board’s agenda to approve thousands of dollars in spending, such as one on Tuesday for $38,025.
A related agenda item funding $238,707 of the project out of the village’s general fund was put before the board, adding to the confusion.
Board members tried to work out the math out loud and stated definitively that the latest agenda item was the final bill for the project. Mayor Brian Gilbride said he was not opposed to letting someone come in and audit the project, although he added, “I don’t have any questions.”
But audience member Pierce Hance, a former mayor and village trustee, had plenty of questions. “You stated that you were going to take this project out of the repair fund from its very start,” Mr. Hance said from his seat in the audience.
Mr. Gilbride answered him by saying the current practice is to spend money on projects out of the general fund, then use other funds, such as the repair fund—whose use requires a public hearing—to reimburse the general fund, a time-saving measure.
“What is wrong with having a public hearing?” Mr. Hance asked.
Mr. Gilbride responded that nothing is wrong with a hearing, but that bills get paid faster through the general fund, with the hearing and reimbursements coming later.
“So you’ll have a hearing after all the money is gone, after it’s already been spent? This needs to be reconciled now,” Mr. Hance said.
Trustee Ken O’Donnell added, in support of an audit, that a majority of the board members were “coming in at the tail end of the project and we just want to make sure we’re not overpaying, so we can just wash our hands of it.”
The motion for the approval of the $238,707 was tabled until the confusion could be settled. If questions remain after the board receives an explanation of the accounting, an audit would have to be formally approved by the village trustees.