Parish supervisor, town clerk spar over who should present bills for payment

File photoThe Parish Village Gym building where the Parish Town Board and Parish Village Board hold their meetings.

The Parish town board, supervisor and town clerk are in a bit of a disagreement over who is supposed to put together vouchers for the board to vote on each month.

Town Clerk Kelly Reader says Town Law states the job is supposed to be hers and that she has been doing it for years and years without any difficulties.

Supervisor Mary Ann Phillips said as the chief financial officer of the town, she should be gathering the vouchers and drawing up the abstract of bills for the town board to vote on each month.

This disagreement all came to a head at the town board’s Aug. 15 meeting. Phillips presented the board with a resolution stating the claim forms and abstract of bills to be paid will be put together by the supervisor — not the town clerk.

The measure passed, with Phillips and town board members G. Richard Horning and John Horning voting to move the duties to the supervisor. Voting against were town board members John Dunham and Douglas Jordan.

Reader said she is not going to follow this new directive.

“I am not going to go against the law,” she said at the Aug. 15 meeting.

“So now she is refusing to do it (follow the resolution),” Phillips said at the meeting.

Phillips said Reader has to follow what the town board says to do, but Reader countered that she doesn’t have to do what the town board says — she is not going to break the law.

Phillips said she believes this is insubordination by Reader. She said the job of putting together the bill abstract was given to Reader years ago by a former supervisor, but the state Comptroller has said “the process we’re following is wrong” and the supervisor can take that duty back.

Reader believes the way the duty is set up now provides the town with checks and balances. She said she is a neutral entity in the town, having no business one way or the other on which bills are paid and which ones aren’t. So she simply puts the bills together on the abstract and presents them to the town board.

She said it is then up to the town board to decide which bills to pay and which bills to hold.

Phillips said Reader sometimes doesn’t have bills in the correct accounts and there might not be enough money in that account to cover the bill. Reader said if there isn’t enough money in an account to pay a bill “then shame on them” for not having a balanced budget.

“The comptroller says it is the responsibility of the supervisor,” Phillips said. “If anything goes wrong, it’s my neck.”

General Municipal Law doesn’t directly address vouchers and abstracts of bills. But in Section 29, it does say the supervisor is supposed to “keep an accurate and complete account of the receipt and disbursement of all moneys which shall come into his hands by virtue of his office, in books of account in the form prescribed by the state department of audit and control for all expenditures under the highway law and in books of account provided by the town for all other expenditures.”

The same General Municipal Law Section 30 states the town clerk “Shall have the custody of all the records, books and papers of the town. Such books of account shall be public records, open and available for inspection at all reasonable hours of the day, and, upon the expiration of his term, shall be filed in the office of the town clerk.”

Reader said she will not relinquish the duties of doing the abstract because Town Law Section 119 requires her to do so.

Town Law Section 119 state “In a town in which there is no town comptroller, the town clerk shall cause each claim presented to the town board for audit.”

And Reader isn’t the only town clerk following this law.

Sandy Creek Town Clerk Tammy Miller said she handles the claims and abstracts in her town because “the law says the town clerk has to do it — the town clerk has to audit and process claims for audit by the town board.”

She was referring to Town Law Section 119.

Constantia Town Clerk Clare Haynes agrees and she does the bills and abstract in her town. “It is the sole responsibility of the town clerk,” Haynes said. “I review the bills and put them on the abstract.”

Richland Town Clerk Millie Newcomb also does the abstract for her board. “Town Law clearly states that it is the responsibility of the Town Clerk to do this,” she said.

The town clerks in Mexico, Volney and Scriba also do the claims and abstracts for their town boards, while in Williamstown, the town clerk and her deputy do the abstract. In Granby, the bookkeper puts together the abstract but the town clerk reviews it. “It is the town clerk’s job and that’s why I review the abstract,” said Granby Town Clerk Janet Ingersoll. “Technically, it is the town clerk’s job.”

Schroeppel Town Clerk Darlene Owens does not because Schroeppel has its own town comptroller. Hastings Town Clerk Shelley Bombardo said the bookkeeper does the abstract in Hastings.

Parish Town Attorney Robert Genant is supposed to be looking into this matter further.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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