OSSINING, N.Y. – A dispute between the Town of Ossining’s Highway Superintendent and the town board continued Wednesday night after board members revealed findings of an independent audit that showed a lack of record keeping and possible missing funds.
The town board reviewed a desk audit performed by independent attorney William Hamilton during a board work session Wednesday night at Ossining Town/Village Hall. Hamilton’s report found a lack of compliance in half a dozen areas he monitored, including inventory, salvage methods and incomplete documentation of funds over several years that could add up to thousands of dollars. As Hamilton read through his report, several town board members questioned current Highway Superintendent Michael G. O’Connor about nearly a dozen issues during the meeting.
Town Supervisor Susanne Donnelly said a majority of the problems she had were with the record keeping.
“There seems to be a total lack of inventory controls,” said Donnelly during the meeting. “What we’re going to do is come up with a plan that goes back through this whole report that we need inventory controls, we need to be able to get a report off a computer. We need an efficiently-run department that we can move forward with.”
Board members voted unanimously last year to change the job of highway superintendent from an elected position to an appointed position. But residents voted 72 percent to 28 percent to reject the proposal on Nov. 6. The public vote was turned down just a few days after O’Connor filed a lawsuit, which remains pending, in state Supreme Court, saying the board misused town funds to push the proposal.
O’Connor acknowledged Wednesday night that he could institute several of the changes suggested in the audit, but reminded board members that he had been doing the best he could with the resources given.
“Before I came on (in 2007) the work done in the shop was lacking, as far as normal maintenance,” O’Connor said. “This is what we took over.”
O’Connor later added that the record keeping would be difficult to maintain productivity.
“I agree with you that it’s a problem,” he said. “We’re doing much more of it on my watch than has ever been done before. If the supervisor feels that this is not enough and more has to be done, then so be it. But it comes at a price of productivity.”
Hamilton also detailed findings that items had been stolen over several years from the Highway Department’s scrap metal containers that could have been worth thousands of dollars and that no reports were filed. Council member Peter Tripodi said he was surprised no changes were made to the system following the thefts.
“My understanding is that currently thousands of dollars are still missing in scrap metal going back even before Mr. O’Connor was highway superintendent and this money is still unaccounted for,” Tripodi said. “I think any rational person is going to conclude that there is only a small amount of people who know the metal is there and there’s a small amount of people who have access to that road or would go down that road for any reason.”