Ocean Beach Village officials overpaid the clerk-treasurer by more than $44,000 by failing to ensure his compensation was consistent with his employment agreements, state auditors found.
The report, released Oct. 14 by Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli's office, found that Village Clerk-Treasurer Steven Brautigam was overpaid by $44,135 for unused vacation and sick days and unauthorized compensatory time during the audit period between June 28, 2010, and May 31, 2021, and that he was sometimes paid a higher rate than his hourly pay. The report also found Brautigam didn’t report the personal use of a village vehicle on his taxes.
Although the audit did not name Brautigam, the comptroller's office confirmed that Brautigam was the clerk-treasurer named in the report.
Village Mayor James Mallott, in a Sept. 23 written response to the audit, said that while village officials don't agree with the findings “100%,” they recognize they could improve policies. Mallot said the board disagrees they overpaid Brautigam but admits that allowing him to cash out sick time was “premature.” After reviewing a decade of reports, Mallott said Brautigam was paid correctly.
“We certainly recognize that certain condoned practices need to be memorialized and some policies need to be updated and rewritten to more accurately reflect the intent of the various boards over the years," Mallot wrote.
Neither Mallott nor Brautigam responded to inquiries from Newsday about the audit.
Auditors found the village’s employment agreement with Brautigam differed from that stated in the village employee handbook, including the number of vacation days and the option to cash out unused vacation time. He was not eligible to cash in his unused sick time since he was still employed by the village. The report said Brautigam was improperly paid $10,096 for unused sick leave.
Auditors said Brautigam also cashed out more vacation days each year than he earned. For instance, he cashed out 20 vacation days when he was only eligible for five to 10, auditors said. The mayor had issued a memorandum increasing Brautigam’s vacation days, but it was not dated or signed, the report said.
Per state law, the municipality’s governing board sets vacation time for employees, so Mallott’s memorandum lacked authority. In total, Brautigam was overpaid $15,546 for unused vacation time that he did not actually accrue, auditors found. Brautigam is a full-time, appointed employee and was paid $211,150 in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Auditors found that although Brautigam didn’t qualify for overtime as an exempt employee, he collected compensatory days, which Mallott told auditors was aligned with the village’s practice. Compensatory days also weren't in Brautigam’s agreement. Still, auditors found that Brautigam accrued nearly 29 days of compensation time and used it instead of his allotted time off, which improperly netted him an additional $18,493.
Additionally, in Brautigam’s 2012 and 2021 terms with the village, officials agreed to reimburse him for mileage on his personal vehicle for approved business purposes. From as early as 2012, auditors found that instead of reimbursing mileage, the village provided a village-owned vehicle. Auditors found the village paid $11,000 annually for the vehicle, which Brautigam should have claimed on his taxes as a fringe benefit but did not.
Auditors recommended that officials consult with the village attorney’s office to consider recovering the overpayments to Brautigam and update their policies to align with their practices.