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Lax accounting led to revenue loss for Nassau’s 911, audit says

The Nassau County Police Department’s lax and antiquated accounting controls resulted in the loss of more than $460,000 in revenue slated for the upkeep of the county’s emergency 911 system, according to an audit released Tuesday by the Nassau comptroller’s office.

Telecommunications giant Verizon failed to consistently provide Nassau its required share of the e911 fees the company collected from residents’ monthly phone bills, equaling at least $466,919 from 2001 to 2014, according to the audit.

Verizon, which like other landline and cellular phone providers, collects the fees for jurisdictions for maintenance of the 911 emergency system, is allowed to keep a 2 percent administrative fee. But the audit alleges Verizon sometimes kept as much as 3 percent.

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, who said he was “very disappointed” at Verizon’s actions, recommended the police department take legal action against Verizon to recoup the lost revenue — a directive the department said it plans to follow.

“They have to get their act together and make sure they follow up and receive all the monies are due the county . . . If they’re lax in one area, it means they’re lax in many areas,” Maragos said, adding the police department exhibited “lax accounting and oversight.” The amount owed by Verizon could increase, the audit notes, because records for 27 months, from 2001 to 2005, were unavailable.

Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said in a statement Tuesday: “Verizon collects 911 charges from customers on behalf of the county and looks forward to reviewing the audit results and working with county officials to resolve any concerns.”

The comptroller’s review was requested by Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter in July 2014 after Suffolk County released a similar audit, officials said.

Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a department spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday the department “will take aggressive steps to mitigate and enact possible recommendations in the comptroller’s report.”

The audit also found the police department failed to properly account for surcharge revenue from eight communications carriers, which totaled $85,600 in 2014, and that most of the providers failed to provide the county with annual accounts of the surcharge amounts billed. Additionally, the police department has no written procedures for the surcharge revenue collection process, according to the audit.

“The excess withholding of fees could have been detected much sooner and corrected had the police department followed up to obtain and review the required annual accounting,” the audit reads.

Of the companies that remit the surcharge to the county, Cablevision, which is Newsday’s parent company, paid 46.3 percent — $3.9 million — of the total $9 million collected from 2012 to 2014.

Nassau’s e911 revenue was recently the subject of testimony at the corruption trial of state Sen. Dean Skelos. Prosecution witnesses testified that Nassau officials sought to increase the monthly fees as a revenue booster, but were unsuccessful.

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