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Canton town and village courts faulted in state audits

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CANTON — State auditors have released reports that criticize the town and village court systems for failing to make sure all money collected from defendants was properly recorded and accounted for.

The Office of State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli concluded that the justices in both town and village courts did not ensure that court clerks were reconciling bank accounts.

Town and village boards were also faulted for lack of oversight.

“We found significant weaknesses in the court’s internal controls and a lack of oversight of the court’s operations by the justices and the board,” auditors wrote in both reports.

The reports continue, “The justices have not ensured that the clerks performed bank reconciliations or accountability analysis to account for all court funds.”

Separate reports were prepared for the town and village covering the period from Aug. 1, 2010 to Aug. 22, 2011.

The two courts have traditionally operated separately, but will be consolidated Dec. 4 into a unified Canton Court system that will be operated and financed by the town.

Town Supervisor David T. Button and village Mayor David C. Curry said combining the courts should improve accountability and rectify problems cited in the audit.

“The judges have reorganized the court to make them work more effectively,” Mr. Button said Tuesday. “We will have a unified chain of command that should make it easier for us to have more oversight.”

Mr. Curry said the combined courts should improve organization.

“It will be more efficient for the village and town to work on this together,” he said.

During the period covered by the audit, the village’s justices included Gregory Storie, William Galvin and Carol Sheesley. The town’s justices were Christopher Curley, Cathleen O’Horo and Thomas Wheeler.

The reports fault justices for not ensuring that clerk duties were adequately separated between the two court clerks, Jerry L. McComber and Marc G. Armstrong.

“In addition, the clerks performed all of the key aspects of the court’s cash accounting functions with limited oversight,” the reports state.

As a result of the court consolidation, Mr. Button said Ms. McComber’s full-time job has been reduced to 20 hours a week. Mr. Armstrong will serve as senior court clerk and his position is full time.

In the November election, Ms. O’Horo was re-elected justice, while Mr. Curley will continue serving his unexpired term.

The reports noted that Justice Sheesley did not meet requirements when leaving office in December 2010 and still had an open bank account.

Justice Galvin’s cash exceeded his known liabilities by $2,022 as of Aug. 22, 2011.

In village court, auditors noted that they found more than $20,000 in errors when reviewing court transactions in the justices’ fine accounts and bail activity.

The following examples were listed in the village audit:

n In January 2011, parking fines of $665 were deposited in Justice Storie’s bank account, but were reported and paid from Justice Galvin’s bank account.

n Justice Galvin had credit card receipts from March through May 2011 totaling $1,210, which were erroneously deposited into Justice Storie’s bank account.

n In March 2011, a credit card payment of $325 due to Justice Storie was deposited to former acting Justice Sheesley’s bank account.

n On two occasions, the village clerk-treasurer transferred $1,000 to the court to cover overdrawn bank accounts. The first loan was to former acting Justice Sheesley’s bank account in June 2010. In May 2011, it was incorrectly returned from acting Justice Galvin’s bank account. The second loan was to Justice Storie in May 2011.

Both the village and town officials responded to the state audit with written corrective action plans that explain the new consolidated court system that takes effect Dec. 4.

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