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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

State Audit Slams Town

The New York State Comptroller has finally issued its long awaited report on town finances precipitated by Lou Desso's reckless charges that the former Town Comptroller had created an "unauthorized bank account" not approved by the Town Board.

At the time, Desso used the inaccurate report from a CPA firm paid for with taxpayer dollars, to fire the Town Comptroller. Shortly after the firing, it was revealed that Town Boards do not approve bank accounts, only the banks which must be used as official depositories. Of course the CPA firm should have known the Town Law and didn't. Lou Desso and the town board should have known and didn't. Nonetheless, Desso was hanging out there calling for a "forensic audit" implying criminal conduct by the Comptroller. We'll, the State Comptroller reads newspapers and Desso got more than he bargained for when the State stepped in to look for itself.

Now the audit is public, conveniently after the election was tucked away, and Lou Desso was busy trying to spin the notion that he and his colleges were blameless in the unapproved transfers of $678,712 in town funds from 2008 to 2010. While Spain and Desso put out a press release to spin the blame solely on the former Comptroller and Supervisor, they must have hoped the rest of us could not read. Repeatedly the report criticizes the Town Board and Supervisor(s) as well as the former Comptroller who inexplicable, the auditors failed to speak to for his side of the story.

A look inside the numbers shows that the vast majority of the unapproved transfers occurred in 2008 and 2009 when Mark Evers was Supervisor. Only $7,643 occurred in 2010 under former Supervisor Ashworth. All of the transfers occurred while Desso and Spain were part of a governing majority, calling the shots with the Comptroller whose job they were holding over his head to induce obedience in town finances. You see Desso and company refused to grant him financial independence with a required two year term of office. They used this leverage to make him massage the numbers and ameliorate the true extent of the town's finances.

The State Comptroller never learned why the transfers were made by the former Comptroller because they didn't ask him. Had they done so, they would have likely learned, as the Troy Record did yesterday, that Mr. Desso was pressuring him to find money to erase the town's deficit which was a hot political issue. According to their report, Strenka provides the explanation for the transfers as deliberate political pressure on him and confirms what the State Comptroller details, that both Desso and Spain were aware of the transfers which remain unapproved by the Town Board as a whole as required by law.

The State Comptroller's Report points the damning finger at Desso and Spain on Page 8. He notes that "certain board members were aware of the transfers but not the full extent". It goes on to identify those Board members in the footnote as two current board members present at the time of the transfers. That would be the dynamic duo of Desso and Spain. The pair knew transfers were being made and did nothing to disclose them publicly or cause the Town Board of which they were in the majority, to approve of the transfers as required by law.

Have a read of the Comptroller's nearly perfect report on town finances which are still so screwed up that not even the State Comptroller can figure them out after his audit. And welcome to the new good government crew running the town. “North Greenbush’s financial records were so poorly maintained that the town board has no idea of the town’s true current financial condition."

Read the full report here and an article in the Troy Record here and Times Union here.

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