The clerk in the Wyoming County town of Bennington was arrested today after auditors and investigators discovered a shortage of more than $14,000 that was collected from residents for permits, fees and town tax collections but not deposited in the town’s bank accounts, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The clerk, Tina Metz, 54, was arrested by the Wyoming County Sheriff's Department and charged with one felony count of filing a false instrument and three misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.
DiNapoli’s audit of the town was issued today and details how Metz deposited portions of the missing funds back into town accounts using cash she claimed to have in her home and that was found in a filing cabinet in town hall.
“It raises a red flag when we discover cash missing and suddenly the clerk is repaying the town,” said DiNapoli. “Unfortunately, my office continues to uncover instances such as this where inadequate financial controls result in public money being stolen or unaccounted for. We will continue to work with Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O’Geen and the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department to make sure this individual is held responsible for her actions and any misappropriated funds are recovered.”
“I want to thank Comptroller DiNapoli and his staff for their diligent efforts in this case,” said District Attorney O’Geen. “These cases are time consuming because of the volumes of paperwork and journal entries that the auditors and investigators have to pour through. This is yet another case where procedures were not followed, the checks and balances failed and the lack of oversight allowed for these inconsistencies to be perpetuated.”
DiNapoli’s auditors discovered that from Jan. 1, 2013 through Aug. 31, 2013 deposits to the town clerk’s account were $7,741 less than the amount collected. On Sept. 3, 2013, prior to a cash count with auditors, the town clerk made a deposit totaling $5,956. This deposit included $5,571 in cash and $385 in checks and reduced the cash deficiency to $1,785.
Auditors also found that town tax liabilities exceeded known cash assets by $6,424. On Sept. 6, 2013, the day after auditors reviewed these records, the town clerk made a cash deposit to the tax collection account totaling $6,444, which eliminated this shortage. The clerk stated she had found the cash in the bottom of a cabinet in her office at town hall.
DiNapoli made a number of recommendations in the audit to help officials in Bennington better protect taxpayer funds, especially cash collections. These include:
- Use numbered duplicate receipts for all transactions where no other form of receipt is available;
- Ensure that all fees collected are deposited in a timely manner; and
- Perform monthly bank reconciliations to ensure known liabilities agree with available cash.
Town officials indicated that they have already taken a number of steps to address the Comptroller’s recommendations to improve oversight of town finances. Their response is included in the final audit. For a copy of the report visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/towns/2014/bennington.pdf
Metz was arraigned in village of Warsaw court. Her next court date is November 17.
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 [email protected], or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.