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Long Island

Audit: LI fire district breaks bidding, expense rules

The Setauket Fire District paid two vendors more than $40,000 without soliciting competitive bids and spent nearly $7,000 in travel and conference expenses in violation of policy, according to a state comptroller's audit released Tuesday.

The report is part of a campaign by Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli's office to intensify its scrutiny of fire districts.

The Setauket district paid the vendors more than $40,154 for protective gear and uniforms without soliciting the bids, which are required by board policy and state law, the audit states.

DiNapoli's report concludes the Setauket district's board of fire commissioners lacks "adequate assurance that the district is procuring goods and services at the lowest price."

Setauket also paid $6,757 in travel and conference expenses that did not comply with district policy, the report states. The bulk of the reimbursement was for two district employees not pre-authorized to travel to a conference in April 2008.

Setauket district officials said they are working to implement recommendations in the report, which covered financial activities between January 2008 and July 2009.

DiNapoli's office said it is reviewing fire districts around Long Island and the state, said Nicole Hanks, a spokeswoman for the comptroller. Hanks said the decision to focus on fire districts was not driven by any specific factors.

"We are doing more of these audits," she said. "There are a bunch in the pipeline."

The Setauket audit states district officials put themselves at risk for overpaying for equipment by failing to follow competitive bidding. The board must also ensure travel expenses "are supported by itemized receipts," the report states, while noting some expenses in question had only credit card statements as backup.

District officials said they will be more thorough about following competitive bidding rules, according to the audit, which also notes that officials said they will ensure that "personnel will adhere to the district's travel policy and pre-approve all travel."

Joseph Prokop, chairman of Setauket's board of fire commissioners, told Newsday that DiNapoli performed "a thorough audit" that the district is still reviewing.

The Setauket district covers about 28 square miles and serves more than 10,000 residences, more than 700 businesses and seven schools.

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