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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Hartfordgate - Final Chapter

Well, here are copies of the 2007 St. Luke's invoices and 2007 Sangertown Square Mall invoices we finally received from the Town Clerk to answer our FOIL request.

When we finally questioned the delay in getting an answer to our FOIL request, the Town Clerk checked into it and told us that the Accounting Dept. said they don't have copies of the invoices, they merely get notified by Chief Philo...something about an electronic transfer of funds, so we guess that Sangertown and St. Luke's must also remit their payment to the Police Dept. All this time the Town Clerk was sending our FOIL request to the Accounting Dept. It's no wonder the FOILed documents took so long to get to us. Who would have thought that the Police Department does their own billing?

The invoices that are sent to Sangertown Mall and St. Luke's are actually signed by Chief Philo and are for varying hours each month. So the Police Dept. tracks the hours, prepares the invoices, receives the payments, deposits the payments and then notifies the Accounting Dept. EEK!!! In the first place, isn't billing an accounting function? Where is the audit trail, particularly if the Police Department destroys routine paperwork?

Next, we notice that the billing is at $31 an hour. Who renegotiated that deal and when? Remember the 1993 TOWN LAW says that the rate is at $22 per hour and:
Thereafter, the rate is to be renegotiated and adopted by resolution.
As far as we know, only town board members can adopt a resolution to change town law. So who arbitrarily decided that they could just "adjust" the rate without town board approval and out of the view of the "public eye" and when was the rate last "adjusted"? Given the record retention system in the Town of New Hartford, it is unlikely we will ever know how many times the rate has been changed since 1993.

Using our "searchable" town board minutes, we were able to ascertain that no resolution to adopt a renegotiated hourly rate has been passed by the Town Board since at least June 2002 when we first started putting minutes online. We couldn't even find any mention of the need to change the rate in the town board minutes. Does the town board even know what the rate for police patrols at Sangertown and St. Luke's is at the present time? Has anyone figured the actual cost of these patrols based on hourly wages plus benefits?

On January 27th, we sent an email to the Town Clerk asking if we could visit her office to check prior years board minutes ourselves to see if a resolution had been passed prior to June 2002. Today we received an email from the town clerk. It says in part:
"To my knowledge, there have been no resolutions to set the rates since 1993."
She didn't mention whether or not we could come in and look for ourselves, but the fact that she doesn't know about a change is probably reason to believe that the Town Board did not pass a resolution to increase the rate.

So that leaves a mystery in the Town of New Hartford. How and when did the rate change, who was involved in renegotiating the hourly charge, and how did they figure that $31 was the correct amount...does that cover the whole cost of providing security patrols on private property and if not, why not? Why is there no public record of the current amount of compensation the town is receiving for providing security on private property? Lastly, are the officers who patrol Sangertown and St. Luke's receiving overtime pay?

Taxpayers in the town of New Hartford...let us do you feel about the possibility that you may be subsidizing the cost of providing security for Sangertown Mall and St. Luke's Hospital? Either leave a comment on our blog or email us privately.

If you prefer not to disclose your identity, please use our tip line...we guarantee complete anonymity.


Yogy said...

Electronic Fund Transfers into a Town Account are Foilable under NYS Law. These are documents that are created as a result of any transfer.

I was unaware that Ray Philo is both Chief of Police and Chief Accountant?

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


Amazing isn't it. Apparently, New Hartford also has a Town Board spokesperson and negotiator.

How lucky are we?

Anonymous said...

Interesting that they spend more time at the hospital than a bustling mall. Also interesting that these "invoices" aren't even on a letterhead.