News Column

LeRay Town Court accused of mismanagement in state comptroller audit

August 25, 2014

By Gordon Block, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.



Aug. 25--A newly released audit from the state comptroller's office criticized the town of LeRay's court system for poorly accounting for thousands of dollars in receipts and bail money, and failing to keep its traffic records and transaction information up to date.

"As a result, the ability of town and court officials to effectively monitor and control court operations is limited, and errors or irregularities could occur and not be detected or corrected," the report said.

Among the state's findings, according to Deputy Comptroller Gabriel F. Deyo:

-- The court listed $892 in cash receipts between Justices George E. Mead III and John W. Hallett that were recorded but never deposited in proper bank accounts.

-- The town did not report $7,542 to the Office of the State Comptroller Justice Court Fund.

-- Bail totaling $7,200 from 21 people who could not be reached, some regarding cases more than six years old, had not been transferred to the town, leaving it open for mismanagement.

"If these internal control components are lacking or malfunctioning, accountability over the Court's financial operations is greatly diminished," the audit said.

The new report, released Friday, covered a period from Jan. 1, 2012, to Feb. 28, 2014. State officials analyzed more than 4,500 fine, fee, surcharge and bail receipts, comparing them with the town's bank statements and other documentation, reviewed DMV reports and contacted motorists with dismissed tickets.

The timeliness of the town's reporting created many of the issues for state auditors.

A test of 163 receipts showed 16 percent of them were not deposited by the court within 72 hours, making it "susceptible to loss, theft or inappropriate use of moneys for which the Justice is responsible."

Another review of 30 unresolved traffic ticket cases showed that they took an average of 91 days to address. Auditors said that delayed reporting could lead to fines and fees not being enforced, and the town losing revenues.

The Justice Court Fund showed that many receipts, primarily online payments, were entered months after they were received, preventing them from being included in monthly reviews.

In a response letter from June 12 attached to the state audit, town Supervisor Ronald C. Taylor agreed there was insufficient monitoring of funds, but said he did not think any funds were misappropriated.

"We believe that a breakdown in internal controls led to the insufficient monitoring of personnel incapable or unwilling to perform the appropriate tasks needed to maintain and operate the Town Justice Court," Mr. Taylor's note read.

He also said limited staff made it difficult to separate accounting functions without expanding staff to a level that was fiscally infeasible.

The town's response said its officials were discussing improvements to their reporting systems with their vendor to make their reporting more adequate. The town's court also wrote a check for the outstanding bail money, which included a list of names of people whose money has been held.

Mr. Taylor was unavailable for additional comment about the audit Friday.

___

(c)2014 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

Visit Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) at www.watertowndailytimes.com

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Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY)


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