Written by Rich Forestano, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 05 June 2014 09:53
A Nassau County audit of the Clinton G. Martin Park District (CGM) revealed the Town of North Hempstead failed to make $180,000 in lease payments from 1991-2002. However, the investigation noted North Hempstead leveled the balance in 2011.
According to the audit, the town’s first payment since 1990 came in 2003, totaling $105,000. North Hempstead made four payments of $25,000 between 2004 and 2007 but did not report payments in 2008-09. Four payments between 2010 and 2014 (three for $15,000 and one for $95,000) evened the balance.
“This audit was conducted at the request of residents who felt their tax dollars were not being used for the intended purpose,” Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos said.
County auditors noted in their findings “errors in the reclassification of park employee salaries,” were not always clear and corrected promptly. Auditors also found town administrative salaries and other expenses were allocated to the CGM district based on budget appropriations. Those were supposed to go toward actual costs. However, there “was no evidence of inappropriate charges.”
“Our audit found one serious omission by the town in its avoidance of lease payments over 10 years, which the town acknowledged and corrected,” said Maragos. “I am pleased that there were no other significant accounting discrepancies.”
The stems from 2011, when Nassau County asked to analyze the park district’s records, citing misappropriated funds alleged by district residents. The county then subpoenaed North Hempstead to open its books.
In February 2013, a State Supreme Court appellate decision ruled the county could proceed with the audit.
“My challenge to the audit was never about the substance of it,” said Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead town supervisor at the time of the audit. He’s the current chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. “We pretty much knew what the facts were and we had no doubt the comptroller’s office would come to the same conclusion. It was about policy and jurisdiction. The courts sided with the county with jurisdiction. Ultimately, the report shows that things were generally done the right way.”
The town originally sent park district paperwork, a copy of the lease agreement between the district and the town and financial statements concerning the park district to Maragos’ office in March 2013. Maragos said at the time the county could not examine the files in full because the town was currently appealing the court’s ruling, which was denied. In May 2013, the town agreed to the audit.
“The Nassau County Comptroller’s audit verifies that the town is up to date with its lease payments and contractual obligations to CGM,” said current Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “I look forward to working with the community collaboratively to ensure that Clinton G. Martin Park is the best facility it can be.”
The auditors discussed resident concerns, mainly if town council members could serve on the park’s board, and found no conflict, according to the audit. Residents also took issue with safeguarding cash, arguing it “was just cash in a box.”
“We are pleased to know that the lease payments have been satisfied to date and any changes in accounting practices will be instituted,” Lakeville Estates Civic Association President Marianna Wohlgemuth said. “Supervisor Bosworth has re-established the New Hyde Park Park District Advisory Committee and we look forward to working with the town in a collegial manner with a common goal of improving and enhancing our park.”
Auditors said they found “cash, checks and credit card charges were adequately controlled and properly coded as CGM receipts, deposited in the bank and reported in the CGM ledger.”
“The audit illustrates that the issue that was the subject of the audit unfolded from the early 90s to 2002, long before I took office in 2004,” Kaiman said. “The previous supervisor [May Newburger] was not aware that the [administration] before her had signed an agreement to pay this rent, so to speak.”