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Friday, December 21, 2007

The Moen Faucet Caper...

If you remember, a while back we reported about the "brand-new, still in the box" Moen faucet that was, according to an email received from the Town Clerk, seized as the result of a drug bust and sold on eBay in July 2007. The Town Clerk's email said in part:
"As I indicated might be the case, the sale of the MOEN faucet was from seized property by the Town Police Department; therefore, there is no Purchase Order and no Invoice."
Anyway, it took several follow-up emails to the Town Clerk asking when we could expect to receive the information...the town clerk answered our last inquiry by saying that Chief Philo said they are waiting to get information from PayPal. Then a couple of days ago we suddenly received an email from her saying that she had our FOILed documents.

We were given several pages including a memo sent from Jeffrey Madden, Dispatch Supervisor, to the Town Clerk. The memo stated the name and address of the winning bidder and also said:
"A copy of Pay-Pal check number 723961 is also included to reflect the transfer of E-Bay sales revenue from this sale (and others) to the Town from Patrolman Herman.

Feel free to contact me with any questions."
O.K., we have a few questions. The Pay Pal check is made out to Officer Herman for $81.89 and the receipt made out to Officer Herman by Carol Fairbrother, the town bookkeeper, is also for $81.89. So we guess we should assume that just like the "only used for testing" Troy-bilt snowthrower that the town police seized and sold on eBay, Officer Herman's personal PayPal account was used to accept the money from the winning bidder.

But now included in the FOILed documents we get a copy of Officer Herman's personal check made out to the Town of New Hartford and we find out that Officer Herman had the PayPal money electronically transferred to his personal checking account "to speed the process and result in less fees"! So that is why we received a copy of Officer Herman's personal check to the town with the FOILed information on the Moen faucet; that check had nothing to do with the Moen faucet. Interesting, in Officer Herman's memo to Chief Philo he says he "will be working with Jeff (we assume Jeff Madden) to get the process streamlined." Streamlined...this whole process is already an accounting nightmare...where are the controls!

The money from the sales were supposedly deposited in Account A2665.1 - Police Sale of Equipment, but how can you deposit the entire amount of the sale price, less the listing and PayPal fees into a revenue account without accounting for the shipping cost. There should be two (2) accounts listed on that receipt a revenue (sale of equipment) and an expense (shipping expense).

Again, no sales tax was collected on any of the items. Even if the town wants to assume that the sales tax for vehicles sold on eBay will be collected when the vehicle is registered, when would the sales tax for the clock, the toner cartridge or the laptop computers be collected? Oh, yeah, we didn't bother to FOIL the information on the NEW HP Color Laser Printer Cyan Toner Cartridge or the circa 1910 Waterbury Clock Co. Covetry Mantle Clock that was sold by the town on eBay. We figured they were more items seized in drug busts!

When we were given the FOILed information, one thing jumped out at us...the copy of the receipt to Dan Herman had been altered. Naturally, we decided that we needed to find out why a receipt had been altered so we visited the bookkeeper today. She gave us a copy of the paperwork she had for the sale of the Moen faucet. Of course, we had to pay for the copies, but it was interesting that once again even though we were given copies of documents and the originals stayed with the bookkeeper, the Town Clerk's office had to make copies of our copies. What a waste of paper...but it is now quite obvious that we are being watched. Guess we are making people nervous...

What we found out was that there were actually two receipts that were altered by the bookkeeper, receipts # 9758 and 9759. The bookkeeper said she apparently misunderstood what the payments she received from Chief Philo were for and she had to make corrections. We must say we are totally confused at this point, because the memo supposedly sent to the bookkeeper on August 21, 2007 explicitly detailed the items and the amounts. It is difficult to determine why there was confusion when the bookkeeper made out the receipts 10 days later on August 31, 2007. See for yourself, we have provided copies of what we received from the bookkeeper including a copy of the memo from Chief Philo to the bookkeeper and copies of the altered receipts.

The problem here is not the small amount of money collected for the Moen faucet, but more important we see a systemic problem that is particularly troubling when you look at the larger picture. God help us if this is the way that business is conducted in the Town of New Hartford. No signed contracts...understated revenues...town monies run through employee personal accounts...there are no controls! Why are the town police even involved in the sale of items on eBay? That is not their area of expertise nor is it what they are being paid to do.

It took over a month for the town to provide us with information for the Moen faucet because they apparently were having trouble piecing the information together...if the town is audited, I hope someone can remember the details, because as you can see from the paperwork we have been given, it is one big confusing mess.

At the last town board meeting, we asked the name and location of the person who bought the 1999 International Harvester Truck with Plow that recently sold on eBay for $7,500; our question wasn't even acknowledged. When items, particularly items of this value are sold on eBay it should be a matter of public record and should be noted in the town board minutes. We hope the town board will make sure that the minutes contain a record of ALL sales of town equipment including those on eBay...it is the right thing to do!

9 comments:

Gandor said...

Chief Philo is the Town law enforcement officer and he is violating New York State Law (i.e. Public Finance Officers Statute?}

Since when does the Police Department hold auctions? Is that what we pay these guys for?

Seems to me like we have a much bloated Police Department, too!

Austinwalker said...

All of these "capers" point to a very non-professional, non-businesslike running of the day-to-day business activities in this supposedly "upscale community". It all starts at the "top". Mr. Reed, coming from a business background should know this more than anyone! Time for one big meeting of all department heads to develop S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedures).
From the Town website:
The Department of Finance and Accounting is responsible for all financial functions of the Town including the payment of vendor invoices, payroll, investments, fixed assets, recordkeeping and reporting.

Anonymous said...

The "wait" involved in getting info from paypal is about as long as it takes to click and print. The is no wait trust me you can tell this yourself.

I can go print the last year of my paypal in about 8 seconds. Paypal updates instantly when I sell somethin and the buyer pays through Bidpay or Paypal I not only have the info instantly, I can usually spend or withdraw those funds instantly.

I never ever in my life expected to say this but it looks more like youre waiting for the truth from that Police chief.

Moreover, if you want to see what else they've been selling just go right to their ebay page and search within New hartford's results and just klik the "show completed auctions" tab and viola. Thats at least everything from their last 90 days, and you can look further back by noting the "sold items" numbers.

I went and checked that ebay page out and right off the bat I think you should look at the several "repeat" customers, and note their locations.

Im always wrong but it seems *odd*.

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for your reply.

Actually we think things look very odd too. We are hoping more people will give us their opinion. About a week ago, the bookkeeper had no idea of what we were talking about when we asked about the Moen faucet sold on eBay. Seems like she would have remembered altering those receipts. Hard to believe that the bookkeeper could have messed up those receipts given that the memo from Chief Philo seems pretty clear as to what was sold and how much the receipts should be for.

We believe there is a possibility that those receipts were just recently altered and that the memo from Chief Philo may have been back-dated, but hey what do we know!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate all the work that is done tracking down the latest misdeeds by our town officialsbut until and unless a legal action is brought agaist them it just seems that all your work is for naught.I faithfully read your blog every day hoping for word that some elected offical(D.A.)is investigating but no such luck. I do not want to wait for election day and HOPE that the electorate will finally say ENOUGH.Our ship is adrirt without a rudder and there is no answer to our S.O.S.

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for following our blog.

New Hartford is a sinking ship; we are hopeful that the "right" people are taking note, but maybe no action will be taken. No matter...because we are not discouraged. As long as we have residents such as yourself reading, we will keep publishing.

Public awareness is paramount to changing the way business is being done in New Hartford. Our goal is... and always will be...to educate the public. We do that by presenting "official" documents that would normally go unread. Our rule is to not make any accusations that we cannot back up with documentation. We want the public to trust that we are being truthful.

The rest is up to the voters in New Hartford. If what you are reading is troublesome, you have the power to change things by simply casting your vote on election day...until then we will be watching every move and reporting.

Concerned Citizens has some exciting plans for the new year. Stay tuned...together, we can make a change!

Frodo said...

It certainly looks bad for law enforcement in the Town of New Hartford.

Just what do these Police Officers do during their tour of duty? I am curious how much they are paid to "protect and serve?"

Now we know. It's E-bay time on Town Time.

I wonder what kind of deal exists between Chief Philo and Sangertown Mall. There should be a private police presence not one supported with taxpayer dollars.

I wonder if Chief Philo has other sweetheart deals that the taxpayers are not aware of?

Anonymous said...

HaHAHAAH

The morons at the observer dispatch forum rellay showed themselves for what they were yest.

They want the mess to go away and unless thier "HardCore" news outlet the OD don't print it they take it as "gospel".

How DARE you back up everything you say with documentiation! I Hate youe and will refuse to believe you are truethful until the OD prints it!

Talk about lemmings!

New Hartford, N.Y. Online said...

Frodo,

Actually, the town police were given the eBay responsibilities by Supervisor Reed. The town police should not be given tasks that should clearly be in the accounting dept., but Supervisor Reed doesn't seem to use much common sense.

I am not sure about the Sangertown situation. Our FOIL request was answered by saying that police protection for Sangertown and St. Luke's Hospital is set by town law at $22 per hour. According to town law that price per hour cannot be changed without another board resolution. We asked the Town Clerk and she said there has been no further resolutions so we are assuming that we are still reimbursed at the rate of $22 per hour.

We have some more FOILed documents due us and we will report on Sangertown police protection shortly.