This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.
CLAIMS -- Audit (scope of village auditor's authority); (necessity of vendor certification)
LOCAL LAWS -- Preemption (matters contained in article 5 of Village Law)
VILLAGE BOARD -- Powers and Duties (delegation of authority to make budget transfers)
VILLAGE LAW, §§5-524(3), 5-532; MUNICIPAL HOME RULE LAW, §10(1)(ii)(e)(3): In a village which has established the office of village auditor, the village board of trustees may not, by resolution or local law, authorize the auditor to audit and order paid certain claims only.
VILLAGE LAW, §§4-412(1), 5-520(4), 5-532; MUNICIPAL HOME RULE LAW, §10(1)(ii)(e)(3): A village board of trustees may not delegate its authority to make budget transfers between appropriations.
VILLAGE LAW, §5-524(4): A village board of trustees may permit claims against the village to be processed without either certification or verification by oath of the claimant.
You ask whether a village board of trustees which has established the office of auditor may grant the auditor authority to audit and order paid some, but not all, claims against the village. You also ask whether a village board of trustees may delegate its authority under Village Law, §5-520(4) to authorize budgetary transfers between appropriations. Finally, you ask whether the village board may eliminate the requirement that vendors certify all claims against the village.
With respect to the powers of a village auditor, Village Law, §5-524(3) provides that "[i]n a village which has established the office of auditor, the auditor shall audit and order paid all claims against the village" (emphasis added). We are aware of no authority in the Village Law for a village board of trustees, by resolution, to limit the jurisdiction of the office of village auditor to certain claims only (18 Opns St Comp, 1962, p 411; see also 1969 Opns St Comp No. 69-265, unreported; cf., County Law, §600(1), which empowers the board of supervisors of a county in which the office of county auditor has been created to "limit such audit to certain types or classes of claims").
Further, although a village has broad authority to adopt local laws which supersede provisions of the Village Law generally (Municipal Home Rule Law, §10[ii][a], [e]), that authority does not apply where "the legislature expressly shall have prohibited the adoption of such a local law" (id.). In this regard, we note that the Legislature has adopted such an express prohibition with respect to Article 5 of the Village Law. Section 5-532 of the Village Law provides that "[n]o local law shall be adopted changing, amending or superseding any of the provisions of this article". Therefore, since section 5-524 is contained in Article 5 of the Village Law, it is our opinion that a village may not supersede the provisions of that section by local law to authorize the village auditor to audit and order paid only certain claims against the village.
With respect to the village board of trustees' authority to authorize budgetary transfers, section 5-520(4) provides that:
[t]he board of trustees, during a fiscal year, by resolution, may make additional appropriations or increase existing appropriations. Moneys therefor may be provided by transfer from the unexpended balance of an appropriation, from the appropriation for contingencies, from unappropriated cash surplus or unanticipated revenues within a fund or by borrowing pursuant to the local finance law. [Emphasis added]
Article 5 of the Village Law makes no mention of delegating the budgetary transfer function to any other officer or board. Further, although Village Law, §4-412 authorizes a village board of trustees to create or abolish, by resolution, offices, boards, agencies and commissions and delegate to them so much of its powers, duties and functions as it shall deem necessary for effectuating or administering the board of trustees' duties and functions, we do not believe that this statute enables the board of trustees to delegate this responsibility.
This Office has expressed the opinion that the prohibition in section 5-532 against the exercise by a village of home rule power with respect to matters contained in Article 5 strongly suggests that Article 5 is intended to have uniform application to all villages unless otherwise expressly provided by statute (1987 Opns St Comp No. 87-65, p 98). Therefore, it is our opinion that the general authority under section 4-412(1) to delegate powers and duties should not be construed to permit a village board to adopt a resolution delegating to any other officer or employee the power to make budgetary transfers between appropriations. Moreover, since section 5-532 prohibits the adoption of local laws superseding the provisions of Article 5, section 5-524 also may not be superseded by local law. Accordingly, it is our opinion that the village board may not delegate its authority to transfer balances from one appropriation to another.
Finally, with respect to whether the village board may eliminate the requirement that vendors certify each claim submitted to the village, we note that Village Law, §5-524(4), as amended by chapter 9 of the Laws of 1982, provides that "(t)he board of trustees may determine, by resolution, that claims shall be certified or verified by oath of the claimant or his duly authorized agent." Prior to the enactment of chapter 9 of the Laws of 1982, Village Law, §5-524(4) required that all claims either be certified by the vendor or his duly authorized agent, or in lieu of certification, verified by oath of the claimant or his agent. It is clear the purpose of the 1982 amendment was to give villages the option of requiring certification, verification, or neither (see sponsor's memorandum in support of S. 5291/A. 5208 of 1982). Accordingly, it is our opinion that a village board, by resolution, may eliminate the requirement that a claim be either certified or verified.
April 6, 1990
Gerard Fishberg, Esq., Village Attorney
Village of Garden City