Freeport mayor, board at odds over audit

An undated file photo of Freeport Mayor Andrew An undated file photo of Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick. Photo Credit: John Dunn

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Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick and village trustees agreed on all but one agenda item at Monday's board meeting -- whether to investigate further the mishandling of money that contributed to a nearly $10 million deficit under previous administrations.

At each of the past four public meetings, Hardwick requested a forensic audit to look into village proceedings that he said led the former boards to "move around millions and millions" of taxpayer dollars. Each time, the trustees voted unanimously against the proposal.

"How can you correct something if you don't know what was done wrong?" Hardwick asked the board Monday night.

Between 2006 and 2010, Freeport racked up debt by including in the budget nearly $5 million of nonexistent funds, according to a report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. "Village officials could not explain why they scheduled a transfer from a reserve that did not exist," the report states.

The report also said the board used illegal bond proceeds and approved individual contracts that exceeded the actual budget. The comptroller said the board did a poor job monitoring lease agreements and staying in accordance with credit card policies.

Freeport resident Annette Dennis, 53, said an audit was needed to look more closely at potential criminal activity, and to account for what she called a "phony" budget from the previous administration.

She said trustees Carmen PiƱeyro and Robert Kennedy, who were elected with Hardwick in 2011, were turning away from their original platforms and trying to "cut a deal" for future support and votes.

"It means you're not putting the people first," Dennis said.

But other residents and board members at the meeting supported the trustees' decision to block the audit, and said further investigation would only cost the village money.

Anthony Miller, 29, a former mayoral candidate, said the state comptroller report found the old administration innocent of criminal activity. He said there already was sufficient information in the report for the current administration to fix any budget oversights.

"Hardwick is just looking to prosecute some of the former officers," Miller said. "It's not good for the village's image."

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