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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 20, 2009

Councilwoman Marie Dermody audits town

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — After being hounded for years by citizen watchdogs at its monthly meetings, the town board is taking steps to examine and correct some mistakes in its inner workings.

At the Aug. 13 town board meeting, Councilwoman Marie Dermody, who is running for supervisor on the Democratic line, reported findings from an internal payroll audit she performed for the second quarter of 2009 — more specifically, weeks 13, 15, 20, 21, and 25 of the year. This is the second quarterly audit she has performed.

She began reviewing the town’s payroll, she said this week, because she had been told by Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg that Deputy Supervisor Richard Tollner had been performing the audits, and later found out from the town’s bookkeeper, Andrea Cornwell, that he had not been performing the audits, though Nickelsberg denies telling Dermody this.

“No, [Tollner] would not be the guy to do an internal audit,” said Nickelsberg, who is not running for re-election this year. “He’s not an accountant, and neither am I, and neither is Marie,” he told The Enterprise.

Tollner could not be reached for comment.

The town has, however, received the results of a risk analysis, performed by Timothy Doyle, a certified public accountant at Sickler, Torchia, Allen & Churchill. The analysis will be discussed at next month’s regular town board meeting, and the board will vote on a detailed audit to follow, he said.

Nonetheless, Dermody took it upon herself to review the town’s payroll.

“The bookkeeper showed me what needed to be done,” said Dermody. “Although you don’t examine every single payroll in the quarter; you check every few.”

Dermody found that, on two occasions, transfer station substitute workers had clocked in more than 15 minutes earlier than their start time, and that the payroll certification for week 15 had been signed, but not dated.

Dermody also found that the town’s recycling coordinator, Jon Whitbeck, has consistently worked 44-hour weeks, resulting in four hours of overtime each week. This, she reported, is in direct conflict with the job description on file.

“The problem is not necessarily that he is working four hours of overtime, but it’s contrary to the current job description file,” Dermody said this week. “So, either we change the job description, or we match his schedule to the job description, but I don’t feel we can have that conflict.”

Also, her audit said, whoever is certifying payroll should confer with the town bookkeeper and supporting documentation before marking up time cards incorrectly.

“It wasn’t that the time cards were filled our incorrectly, it was that the person certifying the payroll was writing on them, and was not aware of either policy or practice,” Dermody told The Enterprise, referring to the town’s newest payroll policy. Developed after the 2007 audit by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, which found that more than one-fifth of examined time cards contained handwritten times instead of times electronically recorded by the time clock, the new policy states that time cards containing handwriting will be rejected.

She also found that the town’s recycling workers were not being paid during their lunch times, despite their not getting an uninterrupted lunch break. She reported this in her audit for the year’s first quarter as well.

“Typically, you don’t get paid for your half-hour lunch break, but the recycling workers are working 10-hour days, and they don’t get a half hour for uninterrupted lunch, and we shouldn’t be taking out pay for a half-hour lunch period if they don’t get an uninterrupted lunch,” said Dermody. “It got corrected, and they were paid appropriately, but, again, whoever is certifying the payroll should be aware of the protocol.”

Dermody also said at the meeting that she had hoped to question Highway Superintendent G. Jon Chase about vouchers, which Dermody did not sign, and which documented expenditures for highway repairs that were not on the highway agreement. Chase was not present to answer her questions.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— After being questioned by citizen watchdog Robert Bolte, reported that the 2009 highway agreement was not signed by any town board members, nor was it signed by any member of town government;

— Heard in a written report by Highway Superintendent Chase that the upper footing for the Pearson Road culvert is in place, and the lower footing is currently being worked on. The culvert pipe is expected to be in place by Aug. 27, Chase’s report said, adding that construction had been stalled by the recent abundance of rainfall.

Gifford Hollow Road has new culvert pipes and a shim coating, the report said, adding that it now requires a new topcoat, and Kenyon Road is being prepared for a topcoat of double-seal oil and stone;

— Scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. at the town hall to further discuss the town’s first law to regulate non-commercial wind power facilities;

— Authorized a payment to CEJJ Inc. in Schodack Landing, N.Y. for a new recycling truck, not to exceed $20,088;

— Heard from Clerk Kathleen Hallenbeck that she will be meeting with the town of Westerlo to finalize a billing plan for the recent shared-bus agreement for the elderly and people with disabilities;

— Voted in favor of switching all but five town e-mail addresses to Yahoo! In the past, the town had paid $2.50 a month per e-mail address exceeding its first five; Yahoo! e-mail addresses are free;

— Heard a request from the town’s Historic District Association to write a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation requesting that they repair State Route 85, which runs through Rensselaerville;

— Authorized the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve to apply to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation for a grant for dam improvement at the Lincoln Pond water shed;

— Agreed to send out a request for proposal (RFP) for town hall building repairs.

“They need to look at the roof, because we had some leaks last year, and they also need to look at the fixtures that hold the lights up in the ceilings, to get that taken care of before winter sets in,” Hallenbeck said this week;

— Voted to approve Budget Committee Chairperson Joli Pizzigati’s request for abstracts on vouchers from June and July of 2009, after discussing her frustrations about the requirement that the town board approve all her budget-related requests for information;

— Read and accepted a letter from Judge Victoria Kraker announcing her resignation as of Sept. 1;

— Heard from Assessor Jeffry Pine that he was working on a tax-rate comparison for the Hilltowns;

— Heard from Noel Abbott that the town’s wind-study committee, which has met every Tuesday since early this year, will not be meeting again until Sept. 29;

— Voted in favor of beginning the 2010 budget process; and

— Accepted Patricia Drasser and Steve Fitzpatrick as new members of the Medusa Volunteer Fire Company, and Corrina Zapata and Kevin Parker as junior members.

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