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October 18, 2010

 

DiNapoli: $14,000 Misappropriated From 3 Hudson Valley Justice Courts

Lax Financial Safeguards at Hudson Valley Justice Courts Need to be Fixed

Inadequate financial controls over taxpayer money at three justice courts in the Hudson Valley allowed a total of $14,000 to be misappropriated, according to an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“When taxpayer money goes missing, taxpayers end up with the short end of the stick,” DiNapoli said. “Local officials have to watch every taxpayer dime. Time and time again my office finds misuse of public money that could have been prevented with adequate oversight. Taxpayers can’t afford to pay for fraud and abuse.”

DiNapoli’s auditors determined a total of $14,000 was misappropriated in the justice courts in the Town of Wallkill, the Town of Cortlandt and the Village of Cold Spring.

  • Town of Wallkill: $5,015 in tickets was reported to the state Department of Motor Vehicles as paid but was never deposited in the justice court’s bank account and remains missing.
  • Town of Cortlandt: $7,500 in bail money was received, posted and subsequently deleted by the court clerk and never deposited in the court’s bank account. $7,500 was returned to the account one to two months later.
  • Village of Cold Spring: $1,830 in fines were reported to the DMV as paid but was not remitted to the State Comptroller’s Justice Court Fund. Subsequently, all but $100 was returned to the court’s bank account.

DiNapoli’s audit of ten justice courts in Westchester, Orange, Rockland and Putnam counties also found the financial software used by all of the courts allowed information to be deleted without authorization and did not generate audit logs of financial transactions.  The courts also did not maintain a manual log of why transactions were deleted, allowing errors, irregularities and misuse to go undetected.

In addition, the audit identified deficiencies in reconciling, depositing money and reporting in eight of the justice courts. At seven courts, auditors learned financial duties were not adequately separated among employees to provide proper checks and balances. These deficiencies put public dollars at risk by preventing local officials from effectively monitoring court operations.

DiNapoli’s audit recommends court officials:
  • consult with law enforcement officials to recover misappropriated funds;
  • update their financial software to be able to generate audit logs; and
  • adequately oversee operations and properly segregate financial duties among employees.

To view the full audit, click here.



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