Ticonderoga Highway Superintendent
Allegedly Took Thousands in Bribes
Better Town Board Oversight Might Have Prevented Alleged Theft
The Town of Ticonderoga’s highway superintendent purchased $100,000 in overpriced supplies that for the most part were not used by the town, and accepted $2,000 in gift cards, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit also found the superintendent purchased $18,000 worth of sand from his uncle, without seeking competitive bids for this material. DiNapoli said these incidents might have been avoided if the town board properly oversaw the department. The audit covered the period January 2008 to July 2009. DiNapoli’s office referred the matter to local law enforcement which conducted an investigation based on the information uncovered by the audit. The superintendent is scheduled to appear in court on May 26.
“When someone is elected to public office, they have an obligation to promote the public good, and not use the office for private gain,” DiNapoli said. “But the fact is local governments need to have a system in place to be sure public officials are doing the right thing. Now more than ever, local governments should be vigilant. Town boards should be protecting every taxpayer dime. That didn’t happen in Ticonderoga.”
DiNapoli’s auditors found that:
- The superintendent purchased $100,000 of overpriced highway supplies much of which remained unused, and admitted to accepting $2,000 in gift-card kickbacks from one of the vendors who sold him those supplies;
- The board could have paid $46,000 less for the $100,000 in supplies through a competitive procurement process;
- The superintendent purchased $18,000 in sand from his uncle, without bidding;
- The superintendent’s actions wasted about $90,000 in taxpayer funds;
- The board did not make sure the superintendent solicited bids, as required by law, for $109,000 in purchases, or obtained price quotes, as required by town policy, for $12,000 in purchases; and
- The board approved the payment of vouchers for the excessive and overpriced highway products purchased by the superintendent without questioning the need and quantity of goods purchased, the use of two new vendors, the suspicious invoices, or the lack of bids and quotes.
Apart from the superintendent’s abuses, DiNapoli’s auditors also found the board adopted budgets that were not structurally balanced, and relied on a nonexistent fund balance and advances from the general fund to finance highway operations. As a result, the unreserved highway fund balance declined from $68,000 by December 2004 to a deficit of $162,000 by December 2008, a decrease of approximately $230,000 over four years.
The Board also failed to adequately monitor actual revenues and expenditures against budgeted amounts, causing the highway fund to incur operating deficits of approximately $64,000 in 2007 and $385,000 in 2008.
DiNapoli recommended that town officials:
- Consult with the town attorney to ascertain whether the superintendent should vacate his office under the Public Officers Law if he is convicted following the resolution of pending criminal action against him;
- Abide by competitive bidding statute and the town’s procurement policy, and purchase highway supplies only of the types and quantities necessary for the town’s highway operations;
- Properly oversee highway operations;
- Audit all vouchers submitted to the town for payment;
- Continue to adopt realistic budgets to improve the financial condition of the highway fund;
- Better understand the budgeting process and not use nonexistent fund balances as a revenue source; and
- Closely track the status of actual revenues and expenditures against budgeted amounts to identify any significant variances that may require amending the budget, thereby reducing the town’s reliance on inter-fund advances from the general fund to finance highway operations.
Town officials indicated they would follow DiNapoli’s recommendations and take corrective action.
Click here for a copy of the report.
In March 2010, DiNapoli proposed legislation to strengthen municipal ethics laws after a DiNapoli audit identified widespread disparities in how local governments oversee financial disclosure rules and enforce ethics requirements. He also released a model code of ethics for local governments.