Take care with public money

Municipalities need to have strong oversight of the people handling taxpayers’ money. Otherwise, money could end up missing.

Here’s a recent example:?An audit by the New York State Comptroller’s Office said more than $19,000 of taxpayer funds went missing from the town of Florida between 2010 and 2012 as the town clerk transferred money between accounts under her control.

The audit said the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department contacted the comptroller’s office in June with concerns about a potential cash shortage in the clerk’s office. An investigator from the Sheriff’s Department told auditors it appeared a family member of the clerk, Jacquelyn Francisco, gained access to and stole cash from tax collections. The audit also said Francisco transferred money between accounts to cover up the shortfalls. Furthermore, the audit said, Francisco was keeping town money in her home and personal tractor repair store.

Francisco says the money has been paid back to the town, but the audit points out more money may be missing. The audit noted because Francisco failed to maintain adequate records or physically secure collections, “there may have been transactions that were not accounted for.”

This is an unfortunate, and unacceptable, situation for all those involved. Town of Florida taxpayers should be livid.

At the very least, the clerk owes the residents in the town a detailed explanation about what happened. Town officials also should explain why they failed to keep an eye on what was going on in the first place.

The audit noted “the [Town Board] is responsible for providing oversight for the clerk’s operations.” The report said insufficient record keeping and oversight led to the missing funds.

Clearly, the board blew it.

While the comptroller had a number of suggestions to prevent future problems – including providing oversight of the tax-collection process – without adequate oversight from other town officials, all of the planning will fail.

This situation should serve as a lesson to all public officials: Employees need proper supervision, and financial transactions and records must be handled carefully.

By -