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Comsewogue public library procedures questioned in state audit

The Comsewogue Public Library is shown in this

The Comsewogue Public Library is shown in this Feb. 6, 2014 photo. Credit: Ed Betz

Comsewogue Public Library issued 258 checks totaling more than $1.3 million without library board approval, while its treasurer failed to sign all the checks, a New York State Comptroller's Office audit has found.

Routine payments without authorization and failure by the library treasurer to sign every check creates an increased risk to misuse funds, the audit states. The audit was released earlier this month and was conducted on fiscal matters between July, 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013.

State officials pointed out in their report that payments from the library in Port Jefferson Station were proper and spent for valid purposes. The audit noted that 148 checks totaling $1.2 million could have been disbursed without issue had the library board previously adopted a resolution allowing the authorization of some payments without board approval.

"No illicit payments to vendors or service-providers were discovered by the comptroller's office or the library," the library board wrote in its response to the comptroller's office.

The library is allowed to issue checks for payments such as salaries, utilities and postage without board approval if a board resolution gives it that authority, library director Debra Engelhardt said.

Checks for newspaper subscriptions, credit card bills and dental insurance would still require approval at board meetings.

"What we didn't know was that a resolution had to be passed," Engelhardt said. "We did it because of [looming] late fees," she said, referring to surcharges on billings that would have resulted in late notices and penalties.

The comptroller's office recommended that the board review and adopt a resolution allowing routine payments, which the board did in November, Engelhardt said. Another recommendation was to ensure that the treasurer signed all checks. The board of trustees passed that resolution late last year, she said.

Expenditures for the 2011-12 fiscal year, funded by property taxes and contracts with neighboring school districts, totaled $5.2 million, according to the audit, and for the 2012-13 fiscal year, $5.1 million.


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