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Audit can’t account for $21K in Carroll swim program money

FREWSBURG — State auditors can’t verify that more than $21,000 in fees paid to the town of Carroll aquatics program were ever deposited into town bank accounts.

Back in 2017, former Carroll Supervisor Jack Jones told The Post-Journal that town officials were looking into swim lesson fees that hadn’t been deposited. A basic audit and then an audit by an accountant prompted board members to ask for an audit by the state Comptroller’s Office. After initially denying the audit, the Comptroller’s Office decided in 2021 to take a further look into the issue.

State auditors could not determine whether swim program fees totaling $21,843 were properly accounted for because a series of town clerks over a period of several years didn’t maintain adequate records. The audit also found that while the clerks generally recorded, deposited and reported clerk fees, water rents and other recreational fees, deposits were not always made as quickly as they should have been.

“The clerks and the prior board members were not aware of remittance requirements,” the audit states. “In addition, the Board did not conduct a complete audit of the Clerk’s records because remittances were not examined for timeliness. As a result, the Clerks did not remit collections in a timely manner. While the required deadline is the latest point in time at which remittances may be made, from an internal control perspective, the best approach is to remit money as soon as possible. The longer money remains unremitted, the greater the risk that loss or theft can occur.”

State officials also said none of the three clerks in question properly completed monthly bank reconciliations and accountabilities. One clerk began completing monthly reconciliations in December 2019 but didn’t complete associated accounting tasks while the current clerk, Susan Rowley, was performing monthly reconciliations of the clerk’s account but did not begin completing monthly acocuntabilities until the Comptroller’s Office showed her how to complete them in December 2020.

“The current Clerk told us that she had not received training before taking the position and was unaware until recently that accountabilities should be performed monthly,” the audit stated. “Additionally, although the clerks presented their records to the Board for annual audit, the board’s 2019 and 2020 audits did not address the late remittances or the unremitted money. A Board member told us that even though they used an audit checklist provided by our Office to conduct the required audit, he and the other Board members did not know what a proper audit of the clerk’s records should include or how to follow-up on deficiencies noted.”

Both Rowley and Russ Payne, Carroll supervisor, wrote in follow-up letters that they agreed with the audit’s findings and said they would take corrective action. Swim lessons haven’t yet resumed since being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, so issues with payments and deposits from the swim lesson program haven’t been a recent issue. But Rowley said the clerk’s office will retain all supporting documentation to show that swim program fees are recorded, deposited and reported accurately.

Rowley also said bank reconciliations and accountability analyses have been caught up as of Oct. 15 and are now completed each month as required. Finally, Rowley and the town’s deputy clerk have attended several trainings, including one offered in early June.

Payne, meanwhile, said the board is developing a set of written policies to address the collection of town fees and the records that should be kept. An employees handbook for each town department and employee is also being compiled. A thorough audit is also planned to follow up on any discrepancies identified by the Comptroller’s Office.

This is the second audit finalized in less than two years that has been critical of Carroll’s past financial practices. The Comptroller’s Office released an audit early in 2020 after former town Supervisor Laura Smith and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell asked for the state to see if the town had made progress in the aftermath of a 2014 Comptroller’s Office audit of the town supervisor’s records and justice court operations. That follow-up audit found that some 2014 recommendations hadn’t been implemented at all or had only been partially implemented.

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