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East Quogue school officials kept no time sheets for some staffers, state audit reports

East Quogue school at 6 Central Avenue in

East Quogue school at 6 Central Avenue in East Quogue on Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

East Quogue school officials kept no time sheets for more than one-third of their staff, so they lacked assurance that employees were only paid for time actually worked, a state audit reported.

The recent audit by the state comptroller's office concluded that some East Quogue staffers "may have received benefits to which they were not entitled" due to poor record-keeping. The state's review covered district operations between July 2012 and August 2013.

East Quogue Superintendent Les Black acknowledged in a written response that some of the district's record management was outdated. Black pledged to work toward computerizing more records, but in a sharp rejoinder he also asserted that state auditors had not given the district a fair chance to explain its operations.

"The district found many errors on the auditor's part," the superintendent stated.

State officials rejected this, saying that some corrections the district claimed to have made in its employee work records were completed up to a year after initial mistakes were entered in the records.

East Quogue, which is located in Southampton Town, employs a staff of 86 and enrolls 450 students in a single elementary school. The district contracts with Westhampton Beach for the education of older students. East Quogue's budget for 2013-14 was $22.4 million.

Here are key findings from the audit, which focused on work records of the district's 33 noninstructional workers:

One of East Quogue's biggest weaknesses was its failure to keep careful track of workers' accumulated leave time -- that is, time off allowed for vacations, illness or other reasons. Auditors found discrepancies or other problems with the leave accrual records of 32 noninstructional employees, including teacher aides, clerical workers and custodians.

East Quogue did not adequately account for leave time of administrators and other office workers, who operated on an "honor system," auditors reported. When they asked a secretary for documentation of leave taken, they were told that the secretary may have verified this verbally.

Auditors found no time sheets or other records of days or hours worked for 31 of 38 salaried employees. The state's examiners also found that a school maintenance crew leader received an overtime stipend of $3,000 as part of his contract along with $1,189 in additional overtime payments, though there were no time sheets to verify that he worked overtime.

East Quogue failed to establish adequate controls over access to computerized financial records, auditors said. They added that the problem, if left unchecked, could result in breaches of software security and "corruption, loss or misuse" of data.

Black said the district would hire an outside consultant to monitor district computer logs on at least a semiannual basis.

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