North Hempstead officials hired an outside firm to audit cash procedures after a town employee was charged with stealing more than $98,000 from the Solid Waste Management Authority.
Nassau County prosecutors charged administrative assistant Helen McCann with embezzlement on Feb. 29. The missing money was discovered in January by Town Comptroller Averil Smith as she was researching accounting firms to evaluate townwide cash collecting policies.
“The fact that the theft in SWMA was uncovered while putting together the information for this request for proposals was indicative of the fact that we need to take a close look at the collection process throughout the town,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in an interview.
The measure on a maximum $23,250 contract with Nawrocki Smith LLP of Melville passed 6-1, with Republican Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio voting no. She said two other firms had proposed lower maximum payments, one as low as $7,500, and that she “would have liked to see a more comprehensive list.”
Bosworth said at the meeting that “for a very long time I have been concerned about the internal controls that are in place for the collection of cash.”
McCann was responsible for depositing cash collected on weekends from fees paid by residents dropping off yard waste. Prosecutors said she often deposited less cash than was reported by the employees and that she did not make any deposits. She pleaded not guilty. The town board terminated McCann’s employment in January.
Municipal finance experts criticized the town for having a cash-only policy for that service. The town also did not have a comptroller for 12 of the 20 months that the alleged theft took place. The alleged theft started in May 2014, four months after McCann was transferred from the supervisor’s office where she had worked as a secretary to then-Supervisor Jon Kaiman.
Smith took office in September 2015, after the yearlong vacancy in the comptroller’s position. The alleged theft was reported to the Nassau County district attorney’s office in January 2016.
“The idea is we want to make this as cashless a town as possible, and so we’ve taken some solid steps toward that goal,” Bosworth said. She has said she wants the town to end its cash-collection policies, but some exceptions could be made at parks and beaches.
The aim is to secure “better internal controls and efficiencies. Hopefully this will shed more light on how we can improve,” Bosworth said.