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Proper Accounting Sought for Unspent WestHELP Money
Release Date: June 25, 2007
I am calling on Supervisor Feiner, the town’s Chief Financial Officer, to make a clear, unambiguous statement that all unspent WestHELP monies that were deposited in one of the town's bank accounts but not accounted for in the totals of either the General (A) Fund or the Town Outside (B) Fund be moved to the General (A) Fund and properly credited in the budget. That amount is $1,448,349.11.
Normally, when the books are closed out each year, any unspent monies are added to one of the town’s fund balances, which are printed in a year-end budget that is widely distributed to the public. With the WestHELP money, however, I have learned that the rent money received but not spent remained in one of the town's bank accounts but was not added to fund balance totals. In a November 10, 2006, article in The Journal News, Supervisor Feiner is reported as saying that he didn't include $500,000 of the funds in the budget because he wanted to retain flexibility on how the money is spent. The amount that currently has this "flexibility" is $1,448,349.11. Such flexibility with taxpayers' money must end. That amount needs to be moved to the General (A) Fund immediately, and normal year-end accounting measures followed.
The Town Comptroller has been relentless in stating how troubled he is in how the WestHELP money has been handled, following a practice that pre-dated his being hired in June 2004. At last Tuesday’s work session, the Town Comptroller specifically asked for direction. After "directing" the Town Comptroller to move WestHELP money to the General (A) Fund, unless overruled by the Town Board, the Supervisor would not disclose to the Town Council (Eddie Mae Barnes, Steve Bass, Diana Juettner and Francis Sheehan) and the public present how much he wanted transferred or where the money was currently located. Even though numerous questions were asked at the audiotaped meeting, the Supervisor said he did not have to answer, but would answer in a "carefully worded written opinion" to the Town Comptroller, an "opinion that is thought out." The written opinion that followed was neither carefully worded nor thought out. It required a series of follow-up emails from the Supervisor labeled "clarification." They too were neither carefully worded nor thought out because they had conflicting directives, resulting in the Town Comptroller and the Town Attorney seeking further clarification. In the most recent email, the Supervisor still wasn't certain of the amount to be shifted.
It is time for Supervisor Feiner, as Chief Financial Officer, to put this highly unusual accounting procedure to an end by ensuring a full accounting for the $1,448,349.11 that is in a bank account but is not part of any fund balance total, and by adding that amount to the General (A) Fund budget total, consistent with the NYS Comptroller's Report of Examination 2006M-156. Such a clear directive, if given, would allow our Town Comptroller to properly close the books and disclose all money in the town's bank accounts.
Francis Sheehan, Councilman
Town of Greenburgh