Time devoted to public questions about Forestville audit

FORESTVILLE – It’s not often that Michael Bolender, the attorney for the village of Forestville, appears at a village board meeting. He was there Tuesday as were two accountants from the firm of Bahgat Laurito & Bahgat. The topic was the recent audit of the water fund conducted by the New York State Comptroller’s Office which pointed out errors in bookkeeping, made recommendations, and asked for corrective action.

About 40 members of the public came to this meeting.

Trustee Carol Woodward moved to accept the audit and Kimberly Stott seconded the motion. Trustee Linda Aures was the only board member to cast a nay vote.

However, Aures moved to make a corrective action plan, once the motion was modified from a “timely corrective action plan,” and instead specified that it would be done within 90 days.

About an hour and a half of time was devoted to questions about the audit. Some of the questions got into the area of the water project itself.

Mayor Beth Bowker began with a statement. “There is no money missing. I mean we’ve had such wonderful amounts of $20,000, $40,000, $120,000. There is no money missing. Everything else can be corrected,” she said.

Bolender spoke first, and at length. He began, “Audits are never easy in communities.”

He noted that audits used to be conducted every three years but recently this has not been the case. According to Bolender, an audit is helpful to the local entities.

“It made sure you were keeping abreast of the state’s latest thinking or findings. In any small village or town government practices get ingrained over time. Sometimes what was OK in the past is no longer OK.”

Bolender said hard copies of the audit would be available beginning today at the Village Office. Residents can sign out the copies to study and there will be no question of having to FOIL for it or pay for copies. The audit is also available on line.

Most of the corrective action has to do with the long-term viability of the water project, according to Bolender, who said he will be studying the audit in more detail. He said that the board will need to adapt policy to take the village into the future in terms of the water project. Other items will have to deal with day-to-day operations to administer that policy.

He urged the members of the public to study the report and work together with the town officials.

“Sometimes the best answers come from the everyday Joe. Send us an email or call us,” he said.

The accountants, who are now handling the bookkeeping for the village, assured the public that the weaknesses found in the water fund were not criminal. If that had been the case, a recommendation would have been made to turn this over to the district attorney.

If there had been major problems with other funds, the state would have issued audits for those as well.

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