A New York State Comptroller audit said the former treasurer for the Mohawk Fire District wrote unauthorized checks to herself and that some expenditures lack any accompanying documentation.
According to the audit report - which was expanded from Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 1, 2011, to Jan. 1, 2007, through Dec. 1, 2011 - former Mohawk Fire District Treasurer Debra Gibson, who resigned in November 2011, took $1,000 from the district's funds and gave it to herself without permission. Gibson marked the checks as void, but funds were still drawn out of the account, the report said.
"These unauthorized transactions occurred because the [Mohawk Fire District Board of Commissioners] did not have comprehensive written policies and procedures to provide adequate guidance and internal controls over cash disbursements, did not segregate the Treasurer's duties, and did not review her work as a compensating control," the report said.
The audit also revealed that 68 disbursements, totaling more than $42,000, lacked adequate documentation to explain the expenditure. Twenty-nine disbursements, totaling more than $5,000, had no invoice or claim attached for review prior to payment, the audit said.
"Although these payments were approved by the board, it is necessary for each disbursement to contain supporting documentation for the board to conduct a proper claims audit," the report said.
The report suggested the board consult with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office and the Montgomery County District Attorney. Also, the report said the new treasurer should properly record all disbursements and the board should institute a proper, clear procedure to prevent issues such as this.
Adam Schwabrow, former town of Mohawk Volunteer Fire Department fire chief, said he worked with Gibson before and was surprised and upset at the accusations. Schwabrow said the department was notified earlier this week about the audit.
In a response to the audit, the Mohawk Fire District Board of Commissioners sent a letter to the Office of the Comptroller. In their response, they said they "acknowledge and deem accurate" the audit's accusations about Gibson. However, the board requests the findings also acknowledge that the funds had been redeposited by the treasurer and that no district funds are missing. The board also said they take exception to the allegation that the board acted improperly and failed to oversee the actions of the treasurer.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," The board's response said. "Policies were adopted and were in place, detailing the ethical standards and business practices of the board. Further, with the exception of the illegal acts detected by the audit and promptly reported to law enforcement, the board has, and continues to act, well within the established guideline for ethics and with every intention to safeguard public funds."
"Frankly, we had policies in place we thought were sufficient," Dwight Schwabrow, member of the Board of Commissioners, said.
Schwabrow said they have been working with the comptroller's office on the audit. After several months of work, the checks were discovered. Schwabrow said they were greatly dismayed by the discovery.
"It was a greatly upsetting process," Schwabrow said.
Schwabrow said they have worked closely with the comptroller and have changed their policies.
Montgomery County District Attorney James "Jed" Conboy said the question of indictment is still under investigation. He said he received the report late Tuesday afternoon and has not yet reviewed the report.
"Until then, I'm not willing to hazard a guess," Conboy said.