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Huntington Manor Fire District changes disbursement practices

Huntington Manor Fire District is taking steps to address issues with cash disbursement after an audit by the state comptroller, officials said.

The audit released this month found that the fire district treasurer was making payments on behalf of the district without the board's prior approval -- a breach of town law. It also found that the secretary had been authorized in some cases to sign checks in the name of the treasurer, without the treasurer's oversight.

The report indicated the district processed and paid 1,065 claims totaling $2.02 million from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 of last year.

A "review of 30 claims totaling $168,715 did not reveal any material discrepancies," but the system had to be adjusted to lower the risk of unauthorized payments.

Those 30 claims were paid without "clear indication" that they had been checked by the board, including a $114,308 check to a vendor for fire rescue insurance that "cleared the bank the day before the board saw it listed on an abstract and was aware that it existed."

District officials told auditors that the board approved abstracts at its meetings, often after the payments had been made, and board members usually only examined a few of the claims, the report noted.

In its corrective action plan, which Huntington Manor Fire District Treasurer Candice Thomson said is being implemented, the board laid out solutions, including that a minimum of three board members will be required to approve claim vouchers before they are paid and a list of expenses that do not require preapproval -- including fixed salaries and payroll, retirement and water bills -- will be established.

The district will also consider appointing a deputy treasurer to aid the treasurer in signing checks without compromising the duties of the secretary.

Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the comptroller's office, said the office found the fire district's corrective plan satisfactory.

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