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Audit faults Bridgehampton Fire District for program errors

The Bridgehampton Fire District was criticized in a recent state comptroller audit for its purchasing practices and for improperly administering its Length of Service Award Program.

The district’s LOSAP — a pension-type program to help recruit and keep volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service workers — did not conform to general municipal law, the report found.

Upon reaching the retirement age of 65, Bridgehampton recipients receive $20 per month for each qualifying year of service, with a maximum benefit of $800 a month. Points can be earned through fire or emergency responses and training, and at least 50 points are required for the preceding year’s benefit.

The report, released March 7, criticized the number of points the district assigned for certain activities, such as responding to fire calls or attending training. And it found that in 2016, 917 of 1,176 points for 15 members were not properly accounted for.

District officials told auditors those problems stemmed from a lack of awareness of the law’s requirements.

Other issues included allowing users to share computer passwords, which could enable volunteers to alter their points in the system, and duplicate entries for activity logs.

The errors “may result in the potential loss of future benefits or in the District incurring more LOSAP costs than necessary,” according to the report.

Bruce Dombkowski, chairman of the Bridgehampton board of fire commissioners, said in a response letter to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office that the district adopted a new LOSAP system in 2017.

“The Bridgehampton Fire District shall continue to stay on track going forward to maintain our records in the best possible way,” Dombkowski said in the Feb. 5 letter.

He could not be reached for comment.

The audit also said the district did not seek competing bids for 12 purchases totaling $100,127. District officials told auditors they prefer to work with repeat and local vendors for services.

“By giving preference to certain vendors, there is an increased risk that District officials are not effectively guarding against favoritism, extravagance and fraud,” the audit states.

Dombkowski said in his response that in some of those instances there were not enough competing bidders in the region to obtain multiple quotes. He said district officials are now more conscious of the need for additional quotes for purchases of more than $1,999.99.

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