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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Press Releases

August 13, 2014, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

DiNapoli: City of Corning Audit Details Stolen Funds

The former Corning city clerk allegedly stole as much as $11,000 in cash from city coffers, including $5,000 from city parking fines, according to an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The clerk, Stephanie Burlew, was charged in July with grand larceny in the third degree, a class D felony.

Corning officials requested an audit and investigation by DiNapoli’s office after they identified irregularities with finance department collections in August 2013. The audit details how Burlew, over a three month period, allegedly stole fees for parking permits, code enforcement, water, sewer and parking summons, as well as utility receipts.

“This individual had keys to the cash register and helped herself. It’s unfortunate that we continue to uncover instances of public officials abusing the trust of their communities, but this is another example of our office working with local officials to hold those that abuse the public’s money accountable,” said DiNapoli. “Corning officials acted swiftly when they discovered money missing, but more must be done to properly safeguard city finances. By implementing the recommendations in this audit, the city of Corning can ensure taxpayer funds, especially cash collections, are protected.”

DiNapoli also thanked the Corning police department and Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker for their role in the investigation and arrest.

Auditors found that Burlew was skimming collections from an assortment of fees paid by residents for municipal services by pocketing cash without recording all of the transactions. For example, she stole code enforcement fees for 11 building permits totaling $1,200, 18 parking permits totaling$1,800, and 213 parking tickets worth $5,000.

Moving forward, DiNapoli recommended the city:

  • Ensure employees access systems and applications using individually assigned usernames and passwords;
  • Review the financial accounting program and fix any weakness identified;
  • Review cash receipt policies to ensure they are up-to-date and include provisions for adequate segregation of collecting, recording and depositing cash receipts while providing sufficient supervision;
  • Implement procedures for various city departments, including the code enforcement and the water and sewer departments, to reconcile receivables to department collections;
  • Establish policies and procedures for analyzing, monitoring and enforcing the collection of the gross utilities receipts;
  • Review parking ticket policies related to processing and voiding tickets to ensure sufficient documentation is obtained and authorization responsibilities are appropriately assigned; and
  • Seek restitution for amounts identified in the audit as misappropriated.

City officials agreed with the audit findings and indicated they have already taken a number of steps to address the Comptroller’s recommendations to improve oversight of city finances. Their response is included in the final audit. For a copy of the report visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/cities/2014/corning.pdf

DiNapoli encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at investigations@osc.state.ny.us, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.

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