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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Federal Auditor Meets Town Clerk

Town hall is a buzzing about a brief encounter of the third kind between a federal auditor doing a check on the town IDA and the town clerk Ms. Connolly. We received a couple of emails from folks who heard about the episode and both indicate that the encounter took place in the Comptroller's office and ended when the Comptroller asked Ms. Connolly to exit after she threw an insult at the Comptroller, Mr. Strenka.

While we don't have all the details, the exit offer was apparently made when Ms. Connolly made a remark in front of the auditor that the Comptroller was "unprofessional". The remark apparently "justified" by the Comptroller's failure to inform Ms. Connolly that the auditor was coming to review IDA records.

Why anyone should have to inform the Town Clerk that an auditor was coming to review IDA records is anyone's guess since she made it abundantly clear a week ago she has nothing to do with the IDA. In fact she does not believe she is the Records Access Officer for the small town agency.

But the episode has more to do with the manner in which the town clerk chooses to involve herself in the affairs of every office in town hall, affairs in which her office has no legitimate business and which have only produced consternation among town employees.

For example, she strained her relationship with the Assessor by complaining about his management of his clerk's hours rather than keeping out of his office management and tending to her own office management. That management is coming under unwanted scrutiny as the town clerk has twisted and turned every way imaginable to avoid releasing records disclosing the overtime expended in her own office in 2008 and 2009 to date.

Those records were apparently turned over by the comptroller's office in response to a FOIL request. However, the Town Clerk choose to discard the records from those released with a specious argument that the Comptroller had no right to "create" the records in order to fulfill the FOIL. This is an absurd reading of the FOIL law which simply affirms that an agency is under "no obligation" to create a record to answer a FOIL, but there is absolutely no prohibition on an agency to create a record to satisfy a FOIL, especially when a simple memo providing a year end overtime number for a department may be a whole lot easier and less time consuming for an agency than printing out a large computer run that contains the information.

So we wait for the Clerk to disclose the overtime expended in her office for 2008 and 2009 in the knowledge than NONE was budgeted for either year. Yet because a deputy's hours are not managed differently requiring her for example to leave at noon on the day of a board meeting and return at 7 for that meeting when necessary, unauthorized overtime was apparently racked up and judging from the record of hours expended, it's quite a bill.

As for our federal auditor, who met the town clerk briefly as she insulted the Comptroller and was asked to exit, welcome to the dysfunctional town government in North Greenbush where civility is difficult to find, where employees supervise themselves with no management and try to take control of the town board by running themselves for positions on the board which is supposed to manage them.

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