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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Hartfordgate...Part 2

So we FOILed the invoices for reimbursement to the town for police patrols at Sangertown Square Mall and St. Luke's Hospital on November 28, 2007. In part we asked:
Is there a contract for the hours requested for each of these years or do we just submit an invoice to Sangertown and St. Luke's from timesheets turned in by the patrolling officers? If not a contract, we would like to FOIL how many hours of patrol was billed in 2005, 2006, 2007 and anticipated for 2008?
We received an email from the Town Clerk saying the information would be provided by December 14, 2007.

On December 19, we filed another FOIL that is more specific:
We would like to FOIL for review the 2007 monthly bills for Sangertown Square Police Services as outlined in town law. We would also like to FOIL for review the 2007 account where the monies from Sangertown are deposited. We believe the account is AA-2770-1. We would like to see amount deposited and date of deposit.
We received the following from the Town Clerk:
By copy of this e-mail to the Accounting Department, access to the documents will be coordinated. I anticipate that your review could take place by January 15, 2007.
Nothing was received by January 15th so we sent a gentle reminder to the Town Clerk. On January 23, 2007 we receive the following email from the town clerk (Emphasis in email below added by this blogger):
Chief Philo has delivered copies of billings to St. Luke's for the months of May - November 2007; 7 pp = $1.75.

Copies for previous years are unavailable as routine records are disposed of.

No contract exists because the patrols are regulated by Local Laws.

The estimated hours for 2008 is forthcoming.
Huh? Routine records are disposed of???!!!! What about the NYS Records Retention and Disposition Schedule? The Introduction to that document says and we quote:
This revised Records Retention and Disposition Schedule indicates the minimum length of time that officials of Cities, Towns, Villages and Fire Districts must retain their records before they may be disposed of legally.
The operative words are...minimum length of time...and...before they may be disposed of legally. So, how long does the town have to LEGALLY keep copies of records of billings for town services? Using the schedules, we would guess 6 years! Sort of begs the question as to what other "routine" documents get destroyed in the Town of New Hartford!

For the record, the Town of New Hartford DOES have a section in the Code Book for Records Retention Management. Here is an excerpt:
§ 27-7. Disposition of records.
No records shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by a department of the town until it has met the time limit on the New York State Retention and Disposition Schedule, or the Office of Court Administration Records Retention and Disposition Schedule if applicable, or unless approved of by the records management officer. No records shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by the records management officer without the express written consent of the department head having authority. Following required consents and prior to actual destruction, the RMO will allow the Town Historian to review and/or remove any single document or sampling of documents that are of historic value to the community.
Yep, the New Hartford Codes even cite the same document we just linked to above...the NYS Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. It sure wouldn't look very good if an actual audit was performed on town records in 2006 and the auditors requested to see an invoice for the St. Luke's or Sangertown billing. One thing the auditor doesn't want to hear when requesting financial documents for a current audit is "routine documents are disposed of"!

But wait...there's more to this story...Stay tuned!

By the way, the videotape of the January 23, 2008 town board meeting is now available online!

The Final Chapter of New Hartfordgate available here!


Bear Hunter said...

Chief Raymond Philo should be FIRED from his job. As the Town's Chief Law enforcement officer..."HE IS NOT ABOVE THE LAW."

Also, the Town Clerk should be FIRED for her failure to maintain records in accordance with Town law.

Lastly, who is kidding whom? These records were destroyed? Sounds to me like we have an OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE CHARGE against Chief Philo and Town Clerk - Gail Wolanin-Young?

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

Bear Hunter,

It's really difficult to say without an investigation.

We can say, without a doubt, if the Town Clerk is Records Management Officer, and according to board minutes has attended training, she should know what records need to be available and the length of time they should be retained. Obviously, even though there is a town law on the books to address the issue, no one has set up the procedures. With today's technology, it wouldn't take a room full of boxes to store town records.

Unfortunately, until Concerned Citizens started asking questions, no one knew what was really going on "behind the scenes".

New Hartford keeps trying to give the image that they are a "progressive town", but have you ever taken note of some of the "antiquated" procedures being used in some of the town offices. We could write a whole series on our blog just on that subject alone.

Perhaps instead of "pushing" urban sprawl, the town should concentrate on the problems they already have...and there are many.