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State kicks back report

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - Updated: 10:35 AM

By ALISSA SCOTT

alissa.scott@recordernews.com

Though Amsterdam's Annual Update Document was filed in October -- almost a year past due -- upon review, the office of the State Comptroller returned the document to the city last week.

"Given the extent of the deficiencies in your report, we do not consider your city to have met its statutory filing requirement," the letter, addressed to city Controller Matthew Agresta, reads. "Therefore, we are returning the report for your correction."

Deputy city controller David Mitchell filed the AUD -- which reports the city's actual revenues and expenses -- on Oct. 30. Mitchell was hired before Agresta was elected and had been the city's acting chief fiscal officer at the time the document was submitted.

The document is a report of the city's actual expenses and revenues for a fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30. The OSC said general municipal law requires Amsterdam, like every other municipal corporation, to file an annual report detailing the financial condition of the municipality.

Brian Butry, deputy press secretary of the OSC, said the due date of the report is 120 days after the end of the fiscal year, but "we are long past that." He did not say whether there would be any penalties against the city for the severely late filing.

"We had to submit the AUD so we could continue forward with our progress in terms of getting the books in order," Agresta said. "The state knows and David had been working with them religiously to make sure that they had been kept abreast of our situation."

According to the AUD filed last month, eight of the city's 17 banks accounts have not been reconciled and the report shows that $1.2 million in cash is unaccounted for.

Anthony J. Dolan, a CPA and manager of the data management unit at the OSC, wrote that the office discovered numerous negative account balances in various funds that "appear to be improperly reported."

"Our review of your 2012 AUD submission noted numerous material reporting discrepancies," Dolan wrote. "We identified several issues related to the reporting of debt transactions and balances. In addition, we noted numerous negative account balances in various funds that appear to be improperly reported."

Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas said the state couldn't have made the letter more blunt.

"All I know is what that letter said and what is said was 'Nice try, but that's not right,'" he said. "It is what it is."

Dolan wrote his office had contacted deputy controller David Mitchell for additional information but had not received enough to resolve the discrepancies.

Agresta said there has never been an instance in which the state asked his office for information and the city didn't comply. He said the letter, to his understanding, is a template sent to any municipality that needs to correct its AUD and that it's just standard phrasing.

"There is nothing that they're asking for that we're not giving them," Agresta said. "It's just, in rejecting the AUD, there's like a template or a standard letter, to my understanding. But, this is the first AUD that I've been a part of that's been sent back."

Agresta said he and his staff have been working to correct these issues, among other daily responsibilities, with Laura Poehlman, a certified public accountant hired to reconcile the city's capital project accounts. He said the controller's office won't be able to finish its work until Poehlman has.

"The problems with the books in general is just that things weren't accounted for properly," Agresta said. "Now, that doesn't mean that there's millions of dollars that just disappeared. Things were just not necessarily put to the account that they should have been. We don't know which of those figures are off until we have those accounts reconciled."

The letter from the OSC encourages the city to resolve the discrepancies and file an amended report "as soon as possible."

Agresta said he's unable to predict when the city will fix the report but said his office is working on it. He said if the city didn't file the document before Nov. 30 it would have been rejected and could have affected its federal funding.

"We had to, in conjunction with the state, ensure that we wouldn't lose any of our federal funding if we were to have to reject the AUD," Agresta said. "Our audit that we did with Mr. [Richard] Dinolfo ensured that all of our federal funding remains in place. We are just now moving forward, again, in constant communication with the state to correct the errors that still remain."

Mayor Ann Thane said Agresta and Mitchell have been working close with the state to "close this out" and continue "straightening out affairs" in the controller's office, in part to ensure federal funding is still intact.

"This is all part of the process that Mr. Mitchell has been engaged in to correct problems collaboratively with the state," Thane said. "The AUD had to be submitted 'as is' to complete the audit and protect our federal grants. That has been done."

Near the bottom of the letter, Dolan wrote if the city needs technical assistance with accounting related questions, it can call the OSC's Glen Falls office. Agresta said it is unlikely they will require that help.

"At this point, it's just a matter of being time consuming," Agresta said. "It's not that we don't know what to do, it's just getting through the process of actually reconciling the accounts and making sure everything is correct as it should be so we can more forward with a firm knowledge of actually where we are.

"There's tons of numbers to go through, so it's not something that we can do overnight. It takes time."

The next Finance Committee meeting has not been scheduled yet, and committee chairman and 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero said he won't be planning one until he speaks with Agresta.

     

Comments made about this article - 2 Total

Posted By: On: 12/11/2013

Title: Try working 24/7 until the problem is fixed.

Try working 24/7 until the problem is fixed. The city if full of excuses!

Posted By: Mike Dailey On: 12/10/2013

Title: Sand

It seems to me that having had a good deal of sand kicked in their face by the State Comptroller's Office, the Mayor & Controller's decision is to simply bury their own heads even deeper in the sand.

Comment on this article

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