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February 22, 2024

New York State Comptroller issues local government and school audits

On February 21, 2024 New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the following local government and school audits were issued.


Click on the text highlighted in color to access both the summary and the complete audit report

 

Village of Mexico – Financial Management (Oswego County) The board did not adopt realistic budgets or manage fund balance. As a result, more taxes were levied than needed to fund operations. For the four fiscal years reviewed (2019-20 through 2022-23), the board did not establish a fund balance policy and maintained an excessive level of unassigned surplus fund balance in the general fund with balances ranging between $839,530 and $1.1 million, or between 109% and 124% of the ensuing year’s budget. The board did not consider historical or known trends of revenues and expenditures when developing the budgets, so revenues were underestimated by a total of $439,767 and expenditures were overestimated by a total of $287,238 for the audit period. The board also appropriated fund balance of $216,780 that was not needed to fund operations which contributed to the accumulation of surplus fund balance. Additionally, the property tax levy for 2023-24 was $509,000 while the village had over $1.1 million in surplus funds available at the end of 2022-23 to use toward supplementing next year’s budget.

 

Dolgeville Central School District – Fuel Monitoring (Fulton County) District officials did not adequately account for or monitor fuel usage. As a result, 690 gallons of diesel fuel valued at $2,064 were not properly accounted for during the 50-day test period. Officials did not maintain perpetual inventory records or take a periodic physical inventory of diesel fuel on hand. Consequently, no fuel reconciliations were performed.

 

West Genesee Central School District – Capital Assets (Onondaga County) District officials did not always properly monitor and account for the capital assets tested and did not conduct periodic physical inventories to help ensure the records were accurate and complete and the assets were on hand. The last physical inventory was completed in 2017 and officials only updated the district’s asset records on an annual basis thereafter. As a result, officials may be unable to identify lost or stolen items. Of the 337 assets totaling approximately $2.3 million selected for review, 54 were in use but not properly recorded in the inventory records and 38 of these assets, valued at over $176,000, were also not tagged as district property. Another 27 assets could not be located, including 18 with a total cost of $50,905 and nine with no documented cost. Additionally, 45 assets had an incorrect location recorded.

 

Village of Madison – Collections (Madison County) The clerk-treasurer accurately recorded collections. However, the collections were not always recorded and deposited in a timely manner, and the board did not establish adequate controls for collections. The clerk-treasurer did not make timely deposits for 247 collections totaling $120,743 and did not record 27 water fund collections totaling $4,120 in a timely manner. Officials did not receive any reports from a third-party vendor showing ambulance billings, collections, write-offs and unpaid balances. Officials also did not perform reconciliations of water and ambulance receivable accounts and the board did not approve adjustments and write-offs. Lastly, the board did not audit the clerk-treasurer's records and reports.

 

Village of Deposit – Claims Auditing (Broome County) Of the 93 credit card purchases during the audit period, the board did not ensure compliance with the village’s credit card policy and approved 83 purchases totaling $20,659 without the required supporting documents. As a result, the board approved the use of taxpayer funds without having support to show funds were being expended for legitimate village purposes and increased the risk for fraud, waste or abuse. 

 

Village of Islandia – Overtime (Suffolk County) During the audit period, the village paid eight employees a total of $149,964 in overtime that was not properly approved or supported by the employees’ timecards. Auditors found 95% of the village’s overtime was paid to the fire marshal and building inspector and was equivalent to 73% and 49% of their budgeted salaries, respectively.  The fire marshal approved his own overtime that totaled $88,718 and did not provide any documentation he claimed to have in support of his overtime pay. The building inspector approved his own overtime that totaled $53,719 for the audit period. Village officials and the inspector had no documentation to support the hours that resulted in overtime, or the actual work performed. Six other employees were paid $7,528 without preapproval or documentation explaining why the overtime was necessary. 

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February 21, 2024

The doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel apply to arbitration awards with the same force and effect as they apply to judgments of a court

The State of New York Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs [Justice Center] adopted the findings of fact and conclusions of law of an administrative law judge [ALJ] made after a hearing. The ALJ had found that Petitioner committed category two neglect as defined by Social Services Law §493(4)(b). Justice Center then denied Petitioner's request that the relevant substantiated report of neglect be amended and sealed and Petitioner initiated a CPLR Article 78 appealing the Justice Center's decision. 

The Petitioner had exercised her right to a hearing before the ALJ but prior to the hearing, the Justice Center moved to preclude relitigation of the facts decided against the Petitioner during an earlier arbitration hearing conducted pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement in effect between the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities [OPWDD] and the Petitioner's union, at which the Petitioner was represented by the union's counsel and OPWDD was represented by the Justice Center.

Although Petitioner opposed the Justice Center's motion, the ALJ granted the Justice Center's motion, precluded the Petitioner "from relitigating the issues of whether she had a duty and breached her duty to provide adequate medical care to the Service Recipient and follow the Service Recipient's seizure protocols." 

The evidentiary scope of the administrative hearing was thus limited to whether the Petitioner's breach of duty resulted in or was likely to result in physical injury or serious or protracted impairment of the physical, mental, or emotional condition of the service recipient and, if substantiated, whether the category level designated, category two neglect, was appropriate.

The ALJ determined that the Justice Center proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Petitioner committed an act of category two neglect. The ALJ's recommended decision was adopted in its entirety and the Petitioner's request to amend and seal the substantiated report was denied by the Administrative Law Judge of the Administrative Hearings Unit, who was designated by the Executive Director of the Justice Center to make such decisions. Petitioner commenced the instant Article 78  proceeding to review the Executive Director's determination.*

The Appellate Division, citing Ippolito v TJC Dev., LLC, 83 AD3d 57, ruled that the ALJ properly granted the Justice Center's motion to preclude Petitioner from relitigating the issues of whether she had a duty and breached her duty to provide adequate medical care to the Service Recipient as "The doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel apply to arbitration awards with the same force and effect as they apply to judgments of a court". 

The court noted that the Justice Center met its burden of demonstrating that the identical issue was "necessarily decided in the prior [contract arbitration] proceeding and is decisive of the present proceeding and, in opposition, the [Petitioner] failed to demonstrate the absence of a full and fair opportunity to contest the prior [contract arbitration] determination."

Accordingly, the Appellate Division opined that "at the administrative hearing, the [Petitioner] was precluded by the doctrine of collateral estoppel from relitigating the questions of fact that were resolved against her in the [contract] arbitration proceeding".

* The Appellate Division's decision notes: "At an administrative hearing to determine whether a report of category two neglect is substantiated, the Justice Center is required to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the subject committed abuse or neglect. Upon a review of such an administrative determination made after an evidentiary hearing, the determination of the Justice Center must be upheld if supported by substantial evidence."

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision posted on the Internet.

 

February 20, 2024

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Former town supervisor pleads guilty to jobbery

As noted in previous NYPPL reports of misconduct involving a public employee stealing public funds, such breaches of the public trust are frequently referred to as "jobbery." Mirriam-Webster defines jobbery as "the improper use of public office or conduct of public business for private gain". 

On February 16, 2024, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Attorney General Letitia James, and the New York State Police announced a former Town of Throop Supervisor, William Tarby, paid full restitution as part of his sentencing after pleading guilty to stealing $11,000 from the town. The former town supervisor pleaded guilty to grand larceny and official misconduct in January, 2024, and as part of his plea agreement, cannot seek public office again.

Comptroller DiNapoli said “William Tarby scammed town residents by abusing his position for personal gain.” DiNapoli thanked Attorney General James and the New York State Police for their work in partnering with him to bring Tarby to justice and said "My office will continue to work with law enforcement agencies across the state and country to protect taxpayers from corruption."

“Every New Yorker should be able to trust that the officials elected to serve them are operating in the public’s interest, not using their office to enrich themselves,” noted James. “William Tarby exploited his position to steal thousands of dollars from the town he was supposed to be serving. Today, we are ensuring that he will be held accountable. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli and our partners in law enforcement for their support in bringing Mr. Tarby to justice.” 

The press release issued by the Office of the New York State Comptroller reported that "Tarby, 58, was the town supervisor of Throop from 2004 through 2019. In 2020, based upon concerns from the town, DiNapoli’s office commenced an audit of the town, which found financial irregularities. A subsequent investigation found that from January 2017 to December 2019, Tarby pocketed almost $11,000 from the town. 

"Investigators determined Tarby made unauthorized cash withdrawals from town bank accounts, took cash back on checks made out to the town, and kept for himself cash paid to the town for scrap metal, fines, and the sale of equipment, among other things. Following the audit and investigation, the Office of the State Comptroller referred the case to the Office of the Attorney General for criminal prosecution.

"Tarby was sentenced in Cayuga County Court by Judge Thomas G. Leone.

"Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and 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 https://www.osc.state.ny.us/investigations, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236."

 

February 17, 2024

Selected links to items focusing on government operations posted on the Internet during the week ending February 16, 2024

A Failed Solution to Our Soaring Homelessness Problem “Housing-first” programs are expensive and ineffective. “Treatment-first” approaches are more successful at improving the well-being of homeless people by reducing drug use and increasing employment stability. READ MORE

 

AI Gun Detection System Leads to Charges in New Mexico ZeroEyes, the creators of an AI-based gun detection video analytics platform, recently announced a positive detection of an illegally brandished firearm in Hobbs, N.M., that has resulted in criminal charges. READ MORE

 

Alabama Governor Creates Task Force for Responsible AI Adoption Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is aligning with national trends on AI regulation, establishing a task force via executive order to examine the current and future applications of the technology in state government. READ MORE

 

ALEC and Other Conservative Groups Push School Choice A conservative coalition is hoping to make private school choice universally available in half the states by the end of this year. READ MORE

 

An article in the January/February 2024 issue of Discover Magazine, The Year of the AI Conversation by Stephen Ornes, reports 97% of business owners surveyed believe AI will help their business, 77% of workers surveyed believe AI will cause job loss in 2024 and the number of CHATGFT users reported [as of August 2023] was "180.5 million." READ MORE

 

Automating Permit Applications Agencies and businesses desire quicker permit approvals. Automation via low-code tools and open source software streamlines processes effectively.READ MORE

 

Boosting Gov Adoption: Can a New, Quicker Process Help? According to a Government Technology analysis of CISA data, only 42 percent of counties have registered .gov domains. Now that the federal government is making it easier than ever to get a .gov domain, will more agencies make the change? READ MORE

 

California Bill Proposes Strict Safety Checks for AI Companies The legislation would set mandatory AI safety testing requirements before training or market release and would mandate an internal fail-safe be included in all AI systems to trigger an immediate shutdown if issues are detected. READ MORE

 

California’s Recent Flooding Highlights ‘Disaster Insurance Gap’ Of the eight Southern California counties that were under a state of emergency during the most recent storm, only 52,820 homes and businesses were covered by flood policies. READ MORE

 

Chicago Will End Contract With Police Tool ShotSpotter The city will sever its ties with the gunshot alert system after September. Mayor Brandon Johnson’s political supporters applauded the decision, but many officers are opposed. READ MORE

 

Cross-Agency Planning Key to Cybersecurity in San Francisco
CISO Michael Makstman explains what it takes to secure San Francisco, how the city is approaching generative AI and the importance of sharing information in the Coalition of City CISOs. READ MORE

 

Despite $25B in Funding, California Cops Only Solve 13% of Crimes The statewide clearance rate for crimes was just 13.2 percent in 2022, according to a new report. The rate for poverty crimes was only 7.2 percent. READ MORE

 

Digital Solutions for Affordable Housing Challenges How technology is bringing Government the efficiency needed to implement innovative affordable housing approaches. DOWNLOAD PDF

 

Digital-ready, Frictionless Revenue and Payment Solutions for State and Local Governments CORE + PayPal® is the modern connection platform designed to modernize the payments and engagement automation for state and local governments. LEARN MORE

 

Federal Money Could Supercharge State Efforts to Preserve Nuclear Power A plant in Michigan might become the first to reopen after closing. READ MORE

 

How 5G Can Help Improve Situational Awareness for First Responders 5G can support the streaming of large volumes of high-quality video, offering the potential for greatly improved situational awareness. Public safety can benefit from the high speeds and low latency that 5G can offer and that are based on technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), drone data, real-time situational intelligence and more. LEARN MORE

 

How New Public Transportation Technology is Prioritizing Passenger Safety As technology has advanced, innovative and affordable solutions give public safety agencies the flexibility to update their current software and security measures to state-of-the-art programming and equipment. Learn how technology can help provide passenger safety and security in public transport. SEE HOW

 

How the Election Misinformation Landscape Is Shifting Brookings Institution panelists considered how the proliferation of generative AI tools, weakening of social media platform trust and safety teams, and drawdown in federal communications with social media firms will impact the the 2024 elections. READ MORE

 

Infill Housing Has Its Benefits but Won't Always Drive Down Costs Charleston exemplifies an infill strategy that produces attractive new houses and greater density, but comes up short on affordability. READ MORE

 

Information-Sharing Platform Civic Roundtable Raises $5M The startup brings public officials together to share expertise and advice about cybersecurity, elections management and other issues that can challenge government agencies. Veterans of Mark43 help run the company. READ MORE

 

Local Government and the Need for Speed Project delays and slow bureaucratic processes are costly for constituents, businesses and governments themselves. What’s needed is a culture of urgency. READ MORE

 

Massachusetts Accessibility Officer Shares Holistic Approach Ashley Bloom, the state's first chief IT accessibility officer, shared that she is approaching the role with the mindset that accessibility should be integrated into all of the state's IT work. READ MORE

 

Michigan School District Integrates Safety With Audio Tool A system designed to amplify classroom audio can now be equipped with safety buttons that provide teachers with a one-touch ability to notify office personnel if something is amiss. READ MORE

 

Michigan to Become 21st State to Enact Red Flag Laws The state’s red flag complaint law went into effect on Tuesday. It will allow residents to seek temporary removal of firearms from at-risk individuals by obtaining an extreme risk protection order. READ MORE

 

Minnesota Citizens Will Soon Decide Which Inmates Get Parole Starting in July, a new citizen panel will review requests from inmates serving mandatory minimum life sentences, mostly for first-degree murder. Previously, the review process has been done by the corrections commissioner. READ MORE

 

National AI Safety Institute Consortium Takes Shape In accordance with President Joe Biden’s 2023 executive order on artificial intelligence, the federal government is moving forward with key actions — namely, the creation of an AI safety consortium. READ MORE

 

Nebraska Supreme Court Reviews $44K Fee for Public Records A reporter requested a keyword search of emails as part of an investigation into nitrates in the state’s drinking water from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy. What she got was a $44,103 bill for the state to begin the search. READ MORE

 

Observability for Hybrid IT Environments State and local governments use many digital tools to accomplish their goals, but the complex mix of different solutions can make it hard to spot inefficiencies, fix problems or even know if applications are working properly DOWNLOAD PDF

 

OpenGov Results Show Growing Strength of Cloud Migrations The 12-year-old company reports big recent sales gains — a reflection of larger trends in the gov tech world. A company executive also expresses skepticism about the role of private equity in the industry. READ MORE

 

Opinion: Regulating AI Requires First Knowing Its Boundaries As new learning methods are developed, the boundary between what is artificial intelligence and what is simply traditional computing methods keeps shifting. READ MORE

 

Permits and Grant Applications, Built with Ease Build permit and approval applications via Low Code Tools, which can create custom workflows quickly, speeding up application development and delivery. LEARN MORE

 

Power Outages Leave Poor Communities in the Dark Longer Data from over 15 million consumers in 588 counties across the nation reveal that poorer communities waited an average of 170 minutes more for power to be restored, though sometimes it took much longer. READ MORE

 

Problems With Idaho’s New $100M Financial System Demonstrate Just How Hard Modernization Is The new project aimed to modernize accounting, hiring and employee review, but for many, the overhaul has just added unnecessary frustration. The last time Idaho overhauled its processes to this extent was in the 1980s. READ MORE]

 

Robocalls Featuring AI-Generated Voices Deemed Illegal Robocalls using artificial intelligence to fake human voices are illegal, federal authorities have ruled, two days after New Hampshire launched a criminal probe into calls spoofing the voice of President Biden. READ MORE

 

Secure Access Service Edge Architecture (SASE) Explained SASE has emerged in recent years as a definitive aspect of modern network architecture and security. Learn about this in the latest explainer brief. DOWNLOAD NOW

 

Special: Securing America's Digital Infrastructure GOVTECH CYBERSECURITY has rounded up industry best practices on topics such as security, threats, and privacy. See how companies are helping state and local agencies tackle and prepare for all things cybersecurity. Read more here NEWS, CONVERSATIONS AND RESOURCES

 

The Biggest Social Issues to Watch in 2024 Legislatures across the nation are confronting several social issues including crime, drug use, immigration and poverty. These issues will continue to hold resonance, of course, in the November elections. READ MORE

 

The Rise of the Equity Analyst: Transforming DEI With Data The creation of a new position in Indianapolis highlights an emerging trend of recruiting employees with technical data skills to focus on DEI initiatives. But can agencies successfully fill the roles and develop robust programs? READ MORE

 

The Tedious Parts of City Planning Could Be Turned Over to AI A New Hampshire city joins a growing list of local governments that are turning over some of the more time-intensive tasks of planning operations to artificial intelligence technologies. READ MORE

 

Trends in State and Local Government IT for 2024: Download using the following link: Emerging Trends in State and Local Government IT for 2024. Government Technology also has hundreds of available downloads in its resource library.

 

Washington Program Combats Adult Depression With Peer Counselors Senior citizens have high rates of depression and other mental health challenges. To improve access and address fears, a university program trains other older adults to offer sessions. READ MORE

 

Washington, D.C., Mayor Shares AI Implementation Plans An order signed by Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser today takes three specific actions to advance the government’s adoption of artificial intelligence. The plan aims to align the technology with the District’s core values. READ MORE

 

Washington’s $15 Tolls Hope to Reduce Traffic, Increase Revenue The state will increase its toll rates on March 1, with the highest toll rate being $15 on I-405 and Highway 167. Dynamic pricing will change the toll rate to a minimum of $1 as often as every five minutes. READ MORE

 

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