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West Hampton Dunes village finances in disarray, state comptroller reports

Homes along Dune Road in West Hampton Dunes

Homes along Dune Road in West Hampton Dunes on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Credit: Veronique Louis

West Hampton Dunes officials failed to follow basic accounting practices, contributing to financial disarray and a nearly $150,000 budget deficit last year in the tiny Hamptons village, according to a blistering report by the New York State comptroller's office.

Village treasurer Claire Vegliante, who is married to longtime Mayor Gary Vegliante, controlled all aspects of the municipal finances, resulting in an "increased risk that village funds could be misappropriated," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office reported.

West Hampton Dunes, a village of 55 year-round residents and 300 large houses on a barrier beach in Southampton Town, saw a $319,000 surplus in 2009 plummet to a $148,000 deficit by 2013 on an annual budget of $1.5 million. In a report released Aug. 8, auditors faulted the village's elected board for lax oversight and unrealistic budgeting.

"The board is not properly overseeing the village's financial operations," it said.

The mayor said Saturday that the village corrected its mistakes and hired a new accounting firm last year.

"Virtually every report has been brought up to date," he said. "The deficit has been completely wiped out and, barring any significant storms, our reserves are on the rebound."

Vegliante called the audit unfair and said it examined a chaotic period between 2009 and 2013 when the village was battered by storms, driving up costs.

He also said the auditors were probing the village at a time when he was undergoing surgeries and treatments for cancer and his wife was busy caring for him.

The report flagged several examples of shoddy bookkeeping between 2009 and 2013, but a spokesman for DiNapoli's office said auditors did not find evidence of a crime. The comptroller's office routinely does yearly audits of municipalities, but a DiNapoli spokesman said the office expanded its examination of West Hampton Dunes to cover a four-year period after discovering the extent of the village's disorder.

Claire Vegliante recorded transactions months after they occurred, issued some checks twice and failed to provide timely financial information to elected officials, the audit reported.

Claire Vegliante, who is also a real estate broker, last year received a raise to $30,000 from $12,400. The mayor said the raise reflects the extra workload his wife took on after the audit. Through her husband, she declined to comment.

The report also faulted the village board for not seeking competitive bids for professional services, which is legal but could result in higher costs, according to the comptroller's office.

Vegliante, the village's only mayor since its incorporation in 1993, charged more than $7,000 to village credit cards during nine business trips but offered no proof he attended any meetings, the audit said.

Vegliante, whose annual salary is $80,000, said all the trips were for meetings of the New York State Conference of Mayors and the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. He made 47 credit card charges but could produce only two receipts to back them up, auditors said. The village board did not approve the individual trips, as required by law, and "should have questioned the validity of the charges," the report said.

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