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June 12, 2009


Weak Controls Over Payroll in Rensselaer

City of Rensselaer personnel not covered by collective bargaining agreements received health benefits totaling $126,000 last year even though there was no resolution authorizing them to receive these benefits. Moreover, unlike employees covered by CBAs, elected and appointed officials did not contribute to the cost of their health insurance plans, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. City officials were also unable to provide all original time records for the city’s police chief. The audit is part of a series of five on the city’s financial operations.

“These issues with payroll are only the latest problems we’ve found in the city’s financial controls,” said DiNapoli. “There are too many weaknesses in too many of the city’s operations. I am committed to helping the city put its financial house in order for the sake of the taxpayers.”

The city failed to establish adequate written policies for payroll processing, leave accrual maintenance, or benefits for personnel not covered by collective bargaining agreements. The city also failed to adequately segregate payroll duties or ensure that accurate leave accrual records were maintained. As a result:

  • the police chief was one of two employees who did not have complete time records, preventing the city from verifying the accuracy of their leave claims. Subsequent to fieldwork, the police chief was able to provide auditors with copies of his missing time records; however they were unable to obtain the original records;
  • although employees in one particular collective bargaining agreement are entitled to 105 hours of vacation, 84 hours of sick and 28 hours of personal time annually, one employee covered under the agreement was accruing 144, 96, and 32 hours respectively; the additional hours are valued at $1,045 per year; and
  • contrary to the city Charter and a council resolution, the DPW and Water commissioner was permitted to carry forward from one year to the next 196 hours of vacation, 25 hours of personal and 428 hours of compensatory time equating to a total value of $13,165. The planning director was permitted to carry forward 66 vacation hours, 26 personal, and 25.5 compensatory, equating to a total value of $2,729.

DiNapoli recommended that city officials:

  • establish a comprehensive payroll processing policy that incorporates the duties, records and procedures to ensure that the processing of payroll is accurate, efficient, and appropriate;
  • ensure that all employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements or council resolutions, which clearly specify all compensation and benefits;
  • evaluate the payroll clerks’ duties and responsibilities and properly segregate duties; and
  • ensure that accurate and complete leave time records are maintained for all city officials and employees who are entitled to leave time benefits.

With some exception, city officials agreed with DiNapoli’s findings and indicated they would take corrective action. Click here to view the audit.


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