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State asks town to recover $234,000

LAKEGEORGE-The state Comptroller's Office has asked the town of Lake George to recover a total of $234,000 in special stipends that were paid out over the past five years to 16 town employees - stipends not approved by a formal board vote - but town officials insist the employees earned the pay and they should keep it.

Between January and March, two auditors from the Comptroller's Office examined the finances and books of the town, and they made 17 suggested changes to the way payroll and finances have been handled. Those findings were sent recently to the town government. A formal state audit report is due to be published this week or next, Comptroller's Office spokesman Bill Reynolds said Tuesday.

Town Supervisor Frank McCoy said Friday that 16 of the 17 suggestions had been implemented already.

The "recovery" of special stipends to various town employees, however, is the one suggestion the town is not likely to follow through on.

The town board voted to retroactively affirm those "Title Pay" stipends and legitimize all such payments to employees - from a few hundred dollars up to $15,0000 annually - in a vote taken last week by the board at their monthly meeting.

All the board members voted in favor, except for Fran Heinrich, who abstained. She said Monday she had done so because she had been an employee of the town for many years. She said, however, she wasn't sure whether she had actually received such extra stipends during her 17 years working in the town planning office. She retired from the town in 2003, and started serving on the town board in January 2010.

"I didn't know how it all worked with Title Pay," she said. "I only saw what I was getting in my check."

She said she was not aware of reviewing any Title Pay allocations to other employees, either, during her tenure on the board.

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