Under Audit

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Fire District Falls Short On Payroll Responsibilities

The New Hyde Park Fire District has fallen short on its payroll responsibilities, according to an audit report that was performed by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

In the comptroller’s report that was released last week, from a period between Jan. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017, the audit found that direct supervisors did not review or approve 244 of 309 timecards, which totaled $171,092. The report also found that the district secretary Maria Passariello, who is responsible for recording board minutes and processing payroll, did not document the reasons for adjustments of 151 of 158 payroll hours that totaled $4,451 and commissioners or direct supervisors did not approve 178.25 of 196 overtime or double time hours, which totaled $7,833.

The New Hyde Park Fire District is a distinct corporation of New York State and is separate from the towns that it is located in. The Board of Fire Commissioners consists of five elected members who are responsible for the district’s overall financial management, which includes approving the annual operating budget, adopting policies and certifying payrolls.

In its report, auditors recommended that the fire district certify payrolls before checks are distributed, ensure timecards for all employees are reviewed and approved by direct supervisors and ensure commissioners and direct supervisors document their pre-approval for overtime and double-time hours worked.

The fire district has 26 employees. Out of those 26 employees, eight of them work in the district’s office that is located on Jericho Turnpike. Those eight employees consist of four firehouse maintainers, two clerks, the secretary and the treasurer.

“We reviewed seven months of timecards for those eight employees, which included 309 timecards with gross salary payments totaling $182,739,” stated the audit report. “We [also] found that a direct supervisor did not review or approve 244 of the timecards totaling $171,092 in gross salary payments.”

The audit found that board chairman Stephen Derenze did not review four of the 69 timecards that Passariello submitted.

When the New Hyde Park Illustrated News reached out to Derenze for comment he responded with the following:

“In reviewing our prior practices we have realized that inserting internal controls and having fire commissioners review and approve payroll processing is not sufficient when the officials assigned to those duties perform them, but do not record the work that they have done. We have adopted new procedures, which will include not only performing the internal controls, but also recording the control activities undertaken at the time that they are performed.”

Derenze stressed that audit report did not indicate findings of fraud, waste or abuse.

“Our employees have only been paid for regular time and approved overtime they have worked and for accruals they have earned. We do monitor and approve payroll, but will do a better job of documenting review and approval moving forward,” said Derenze.

One of the many policies that the fire district will adopt will be the replacement of time cards with a finger scanning system. Employees will be required to finger scan each time they report for work, leave early from work and leave at the end of their assigned shift. The new scanning system will reflect the actual time that was worked while supervisors will sign off and date the finger scan work shift report that covers their assigned employees.
In addition, at least one commissioner will review the reports of all employees for each period, sign off and date their review. A request for overtime or double time will now be submitted to a commissioner who will review the request—approving it by email or text message.

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