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Aug 5, 2009 12:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Forensic audit of Southampton Town capital fund underway

Aug 5, 2009 12:15 PM

A forensic audit of Southampton Town’s capital fund, which the Town Board called for in June, is now underway, according to Town Comptroller Tamara Wright.

FTI Consulting of Manhattan, the firm that recently completed a similar audit of the police fund, is conducting the capital audit for a fee of $200,000. The focus of the audit will be on the years 2003 through 2007, the same period FTI studied in the police fund, and according to Ms. Wright, it will zero in on the failure to complete direct appropriations of cash in 2004, 2005 and 2006. For those three years, some $10 million from the general fund was allocated by the Town Board to pay directly for capital projects. But while the transactions were penciled in the ledgers, the actual cash was never moved from the general fund into the appropriate capital accounts.

Since most of those projects were completed and need to be paid for, the failure to complete those direct appropriations means the town must now dig itself out of a multi-million-dollar hole. Town officials are in the process of crafting a corrective action plan to do that.

Unlike routine financial reviews, forensic audits are more thorough and investigative in nature, though not necessarily aimed at uncovering wrongdoing. Ms. Wright said the capital audit should produce a clear picture of what capital projects the Town Board authorized during those years and the subsequent status of those projects.

The audit, Ms. Wright estimated, should be completed in September, if not sooner.

The town is paying FTI from interest earned on its capital fund.

Nepotism Targeted

The Southampton Town Board recently discussed a proposal aimed at preventing favoritism or personal relationships from influencing who gets hired at Town Hall.

In a proposed new policy put forth by Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, nepotism is defined as “favoritism or the appearance of favoritism” based on personal relationships. The purpose behind the proposal, Ms. Throne-Holst said, is to keep such relationships out of the employment decision-making process.

The nepotism policy would also apply to promotions and appointments. The proposal calls for a disclosure form to be filled out by prospective Town Hall employees so that those hiring know what, if any, personal relationships exist that might influence hiring.

The proposed policy also defines what constitutes a personal relationship, but further details need to be worked out. The sponsors differ on what should be considered “romantic relationships” and how they should be incorporated into the policy.

According to Ms. Kabot’s office, the details of the proposed law and the definitions are being reviewed by Vince Toomey, the town’s labor counsel, and will be discussed by the Town Board again.

Helicopter Noise

The Southampton Town Board unanimously adopted a resolution last week supporting the efforts of U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer to mitigate the nuisance of helicopter flights over Long Island.

Mr. Bishop and Mr. Schumer have crafted a provision to the Federal Aviation Administration Act that instructs the FAA to move quickly in completing a study of the flight patterns in order to establish altitudes for the flights, flight routes and address safety concerns and noise impacts.

The Bishop/Schumer bill has been approved in the House and is now being considered in the Senate.

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The next forensic audits needed are of the Waste Management and Highway
Departments. They have been millions of dollars in debt for several years. Might as well get to the bottom of the financial problems before the town board makes any decisions about how to proceed and what we need to pay back.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Aug 5, 09 6:09 PM
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