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Bellport officials fail to properly document payments, state audit finds

The Village of Bellport was founded in the

The Village of Bellport was founded in the early 1800s by Captains Thomas and John Bell as a seaport. For many years it served as a base for ship-building and fishing, as well as farming. It celebrated its 100th anniversary as an incorporated village in 2010. Village Hall is located 29 Bellport Lane. (July 27, 2011) Credit: Carl Corry

A state audit has found that Bellport Village officials failed to properly authorize tens of thousands of dollars in payments to contractors and a village attorney.

The audit, released last week by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office, reported that Bellport officials often paid contractors who did not have valid contracts or agreements to provide services to the village.

In addition, the village board often approved expenses that lacked proper documentation, and meeting minutes included lists of claims, known as abstracts, that were vague and incomplete, the audit concluded.

"As a result, there is an increased risk that payments were for goods and services that were not actual and necessary expenditures, were not actually received or were not procured in the most prudent and economical manner," the comptroller's office reported.

In a written response, Bellport Mayor Raymond Fell said the village agreed with the audit's findings and had taken steps to improve its internal audits of expenses.

The report said state auditors studied 25 claims totaling $59,446 that had been paid by Bellport officials from June 2012 through last November. Each claim was found to be "deficient for one or more reasons," the report said.

In one case, a village attorney was paid $42,988 although the lawyer had no written agreement with the village, according to the audit. Bellport also paid $2,767 to a cleaning company even though its village contract had expired, auditors said.

Village board minutes failed to include itemized lists of payments and did not indicate whether the board had audited the claims, auditors said.

In his written response, which was released with the audit, Fell said the village adopted a new procurement policy in the fall "that will be strictly enforced by the village clerk."

Fell wrote that records now indicate that the village board has audited claims paid, and that information is included with meeting minutes.

The audit also criticized the village for failing to put a fuel contract out for bid before paying $5,670 for fuel.

In his response, Fell said the village normally buys fuel through a state contract. But the company that holds the contract could not supply fuel to the village's golf pro shop or ferryboat. He said the village would seek bids before awarding fuel contracts for the ferry and pro shop.

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