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Merrihew: No fuel or money missing

ELIZABETHTOWN - Elizabethtown's town supervisor is encouraging residents to take the report of a recent town audit with a grain of salt.

A report from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office was released earlier this month and criticized supervisor Noel Merrihew and other officials for the way the town has handled its accounting and fuel.

For his part, Merrihew believes the report ignores some important aspects of the town's bookkeeping, however.

"The report gave a wrong impression of what the financial oversight is here at the town," he said.

The audit, which scrutinized records from January 2008 through April 2009, said Merrihew and his bookkeeper failed to keep accurate financial records and submit them to the town board for annual review.

According to auditors, cash account balance tests for December 2008 and March 2009 found "discrepancies between the bank statement and general ledger balances that could not be explained, ranging from approximately $260 to $140,260."

But according to Merrihew, those discrepancies all had very reasonable explanations that could be tracked through detailed town financial records. In most cases, he said, the amounts represented fund transfers or payments that were delayed to allow for higher returns of interest.

Also, Merrihew said, it has been common practice for a summary of fund transfers and expenditures to be presented to the Town Board at each monthly meeting.

"For them to be representing that the board is unaware of a common transfer is ignoring the fact that these are read at every meeting and that the board approves their transfer every month," Merrihew said.

Auditors also reprimanded the town for the way it dealt with financial records specific to capital project funds, noting what it called "wildly fluctuating variances in the balance sheet accounts."

In defense, Merrihew explained that the town had been following recommendations made by another auditor from the Comptroller's office who had reviewed town financial records in 2005 at the town's request.

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