Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 22 May 2013 07:36
The Town of North Hempstead will submit to a Nassau County financial and operational audit of the Clinton G. Martin Park District in New Hyde Park after the Court of Appeals dismissed the town’s appeal, according to court documents.
The court dismissed North Hempstead’s appeal on April 30, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos revealed. A letter was sent to the town on May 9 asking for financial documents spanning three years.
The town had 10 working days to follow up. Town officials confirmed that a meeting with the auditors was scheduled for Thursday, May 23.
The tug and pull of the audit stems from 2011, when Maragos asked to analyze the park district’s records citing misappropriated funds alleged by district residents. In February, a State Supreme Court appellate decision ruled the county could do the audit. The town appealed, arguing the audit was unconstitutional, but was denied.
“The Town of North Hempstead has fought this issue on principle but without success in the courts,” Supervisor Jon Kaiman said in a statement. “While the town’s position remains that the CGM park district is still a funding arm of the town, there is no reason not to have the County Comptroller’s office do its formal review to at least resolve the substantive issue once and for all.”
The county subpoenaed North Hempstead two years ago to open its books, according to counsel to the comptroller Chris Leimone.
“If we have to go back further, we’ll go back further,” Maragos said at a Joint Civic Association meeting on May 15. “Typically, three years is what we do.”
Town officials said most of legal work on the appeals process was done “in house,” but costs outside the town’s legal counsel totaled $7,382. North Hempstead reps confirmed another motion to appeal is currently pending.
Two auditors will handle the audit, according to county officials, but more could be added. Maragos said the last three years of salaries, board minutes, costs etc., of the town park district will be the focus of the investigation.
“At this point, we have the authority to go in there and really look at what we choose to look at,” Leimone said.
The town originally sent park district paperwork, a copy of the lease agreement between the district and the town and financial statements concerning the park district to Maragos’ office in March. Maragos, up for re-election in November, said the county could not examine the files in full because the town was currently appealing the court’s ruling.
“It wasn’t what we had asked for,” he said. “The key information like payroll information, ledgers, board minutes, was not there.”
The audit, although not forensic, will need to account for how the money was spent and where it went, according to Maragos.
“I’ve been involved in audits that we’ve run through the union,” North Lakeville Civic Association Secretary Mike Currie said. “I know exactly what [Maragos] is talking about. It doesn’t take a lot of people. It just takes a lot of effort for them to look at the documentation and know what they’re looking for.”