State audit: $43,800 missing at Uniondale Fire Department

The Uniondale Fire Department engaged in "questionable" practices, The Uniondale Fire Department engaged in "questionable" practices, according to a recent state audit. Photo Credit: Tara Conry

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The Uniondale Fire Department engaged in "questionable" practices with credit card use, meals and refreshments, cellphones, and other items, according to an audit recently released by the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

"We calculated that approximately $43,800 in firehouse hall rental income [handled exclusively by a person identified only as Commissioner A] is missing," said the audit, which covered January 2011 to September 2012.

Five elected commissioners have oversight of the department, which had a $4.1 million budget, 126 volunteer firefighters and 12 paid employees in 2012.

Commissioner Noel Thomas said the state's calculation of $43,800 "was erroneous, based on our lack of documentation." He referred the issue to the district's lawyer, Peter Fishbein in Garden City, who said the statements by the comptroller's office "were helpful, and its recommendations are being adopted by the Board of Commissioners." He did not provide details.

The audit said the district's policies were weak to begin with and even then, "district personnel did not comply" with them. "Not only did the board fail to provide oversight in these areas, individual board members themselves abused these district resources," the audit stated.

"Of the $44,245 of credit card purchases that we identified as being questionable, $33,063 were made by Commissioner A," the audit said.

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"The District has more sport utility vehicles than . . . necessary, seven of which were either not being used or were assigned to employees" who did not need them for their jobs, said the report.

Fishbein challenged that, saying "the auditors are not the people on the ground," but he reiterated "the district is taking all of the comptroller's recommendations seriously."

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