By JAIME STUDD
Recorder News Staff
TOWN OF FLORIDA -- Longtime Florida Town Clerk Jacquelyn Francisco, the subject of an audit recently released by the state comptroller's office, has resigned her position effective Feb. 28.
Florida Town Supervisor Bill Strevy announced Francisco's resignation during Monday night's meeting of the Florida Town Board.
In a resignation letter to Strevy dated Feb. 12, Francisco wrote: "It has been my pleasure to serve the people of the town of Florida over the past 32 years. At this point, however, I feel that the interests of the town will be better served by moving aside and allowing the town functions to be coordinated through the town office building."
Strevy said Francisco is currently hospitalized and has been since the date of the letter.
"I will accept this regretfully," Strevy said. "I've known the woman all my life. She will be greatly missed."
"Jackie had a very good, very long career here with the town," Florida Town Attorney Deborah Slezak noted later in the meeting. "She served with distinction."
The audit, released on Feb. 1, revealed more than $19,000 in missing funds, a large portion of which was believed to have been stolen from the clerk's office.
The audit was initiated in June, when officials from the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department contacted the Office of NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli with "concerns about a potential cash shortage." The report indicated that Sheriff's investigators believed the money "appeared" to have been taken by a family member of Francisco, who had "gained access to" and stolen cash from the collections.
Francisco herself told a state auditor that she "had concerns that this family member was gaining access to taxpayer funds and removing them from her possession."
The report, in part, blamed both Francisco and the Florida Town Board for the missing funds, citing a "lack of adequate accounting records and poor internal controls," which "included the failure of the clerk to reconcile collections with deposits, and the failure of the Board to provide oversight including reviewing finalized tax rolls and county settlement statements."
The report also specifically cited Francisco for having failed to "properly secure collections," noting that town funds had a one point been stored in "unsecure locations in her personal tractor repair store and in her home."
Prior to the audit's release, Francisco had made full restitution to the town.
On Monday, Strevy said the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office had concluded its investigation into the matter and that the town board had decided not to press charges.
"There's no point in moving forward with charges against her (Francisco)," Strevy said following the meeting. "There's nothing to be gained."
As part of the measures instituted to address the issues cited in the audit, the town board had appointed Kim LaMont to serve as Deputy Town Clerk, assigning her control over all the financial aspects of the office.
The office of the town clerk was also officially moved from Francisco's home to the town offices.
In an emergency meeting following receipt of Francisco's resignation, the board assigned LaMont to take over complete operations of the office as the deputy and had intended for her to serve in that capacity through the end of Francisco's term.
The seat is up for election this year.
On Monday, however, the board voted to appoint LaMont Interim Town Clerk.
That appointment, however, followed some debate over the hours LaMont would be able to operate the office, which would have been Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, as well as several hours on Saturday.
"I've already got some people telling me that we need to leave the office open during the day," said Councilman Ron Phillips. "I've got to agree with them."
"The job isn't going to get done in that amount of hours," he added.
Strevy agreed, saying the functions of the office required contact with various vendors and state and county offices that needed to be made during business hours.
"If Kim can only be there at night, maybe we ought to think about getting someone in there during the day," Strevy said.
Strevy also noted the enormous amount of work required by the office and its current state of disarray in Francisco's absence as reasons for additional help.
"There was no record keeping over there whatsoever," Strevy said. "I have no January report. I have no clerk's report. I have no checks."
"I don't care if we have nine clerks if it's legal, but we've got to have somebody service the day to day operations," he said.
In response, the board voted unanimously to appoint Kathy Hermance to serve as Deputy Town Clerk.
Hermance had been helping Francisco voluntarily for a few hours each week.
Between LaMont and Hermance, the Florida Town Clerk's Office will now be open on Monday, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. through 2 p.m.
The new office phone number is 843-6372.