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State audit cites East Brentwood Fire District on credit card and other charges

The board of the East Brentwood Fire District approved more than $86,000 in credit card charges on food and travel -- including a $9,500 trip to London -- without proper receipts from 2013 through April of last year, according to the state comptroller's office.

The district also did not comply with an Islip Town law regarding commissioner elections by holding an election for a position a year earlier than necessary and allowing another commissioner, whose term had expired, to perform his duties in the elected spot for a year past his term, according to the 28-page state audit.

Staff from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office examined the district's internal financial controls, covering selected expenditures from Jan. 1, 2013, to April 30, 2014. Records back to Jan. 1, 2006, were also inspected to analyze its election and payroll procedures.

"The board did not establish and maintain an environment committed to accountability, competence and transparency, due to its lack of policies, guidelines and monitoring," the auditors wrote.

In May 2013, the department chief and an assistant chief spent $9,448 on a trip to London for a conference, the audit states, but the district board's approval did not provide details about the location, business reason or how much the trip would cost, nor were itemized invoices for hotel, air and ground transportation, or meal expenses submitted.

"[B]ased on the documentation available we could not determine the business purpose or what the District gained by sending the Chief and Assistant Chief on this international trip," the auditors wrote.

The chief and assistant chief who took the trip were not named in the audit. Nick Grammenos, listed on the fire department's website as chief since 2011, declined to be interviewed. The two assistant chiefs listed on the website, as well as the district treasurer, did not return calls for comment.

In a response to the state, Steve Grammenos, chairman of the East Brentwood Fire District, wrote that "the board is currently working on" updating its food, travel and credit card usage policies, all taking effect on Sept. 1.

At the start of this year, Grammenos wrote, the board has taken steps to "ensure all expenses are adequately supported and necessary before approving them for payment" and that the district treasurer is reviewing supporting documentation for expense claims to "make sure there is sufficient evidence to justify the expense as a district expense."


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