A state audit made available Thursday is critical of town of Charleston bookkeeping practices and cites Supervisor Shayne T. Walters for failing to maintain “complete, accurate and up-to-date accounting records.”
The audit, conducted by examiners with the state Comptroller’s Office, concluded that Walters failed to provide “any training or sufficient oversight to ensure that the [town] bookkeeper performed these duties adequately.”
Instead of general ledgers to record town funds, the audit said, the bookkeeper used a spreadsheet to track cash receipts and disbursements. Cash balances were not accurately reconciled to bank statements, the audit found. Only once in 20 months were the accounts and bank statement reconciled properly, the auditors said.
“We compared the cash disbursement spreadsheets to the budget spreadsheet and found that none of the 24 months agreed,” the auditors said, noting that discrepancies ranged from $900 to $100,000.
Walters said Thursday that the town’s former bookkeeper declined to attend training and that software available to the town when he took office in 2004 failed to operate properly when attempts were made to produce the annual financial reports filed with the state.
Walters said he sent numerous letters to the comptroller’s office during his tenure reporting the problems and asking for assistance. He said state officials sent replacement software but did not visit until the audit began in late 2009.
“The audit is the audit,” Walters said of the document released Thursday to the public, but he emphasized that “the audit doesn’t say there was misappropriation of funds. ... It doesn’t say one dime of money is missing.”
Walters said the Town Board was fully aware of the situation and every expenditure was authorized by the board. The formal recordkeeping was flawed, he said, “but our checkbook was fine.”
Walters’ opponent in the last election, former Supervisor Christoph Piening, called the audit “a devastating report.” In his last campaign, Piening said he warned residents and the Town Board that there were problems with the town financial records.
“Everything that I said has been borne out to be factual,” he said.
The auditors said Walters’ “lack of oversight over the bookkeeper has resulted in the town’s accounting records being incomplete, inaccurate and untimely. ... As a result, the board’s ability to monitor and manage the town’s financial resources has been severely diminished.”
The audit determined that Walters had failed to file required annual update documents with the comptroller’s office from fiscal years 2003 to 2008. Auditors noted that Walters told them he tried to file the 2004 financials “and had problems with the electronic software.”
During the two years the auditors were working with the town, it was noted, Walters did file annual reports for 2004-09. But, the auditors said, Walters adjusted the fund balances in the general fund and highway fund — in sums of $300,000 and $100,000 respectively — to balance accounts with actual cash on hand.
The auditors determined that the adjustments resulted from inadequate accounting records.
Walters said all of the findings were addressed by the town by the time the auditors packed up and left.