Though the audit of the village finances was sternly worded, everything happening at the village meetings and treasurer's office is above board, said village officials.
“If there were any embezzlements or missing funds, you'd hear about it as soon as the audit came out,” said Village Treasurer Arsene Latourneau.
The report from the Office of the State Comptroller criticized the village's purchases of some items that didn't follow bidding processes or buy from a state contract approved vendor. That was a violation of the General Municipal Law, but not a criminal offense.
It also contained complaints about how carefully the village was tracking costs of capital projects.
Drawing monies from one fund and borrowing for public works projects from the village's general fund wasn't the best record-keeping practice, according to the report. But it was beneficial to the taxpayers, said the village treasurer.
"What we did is save thousands and thousands of dollars,” said Latourneau.
Although the practice isn’t good accounting, an Office of the Comptroller spokesperson noted that such mixing of funds is fairly common in small governments.
Adopting the fixes is a simple matter, though it will increase costs for the village. The treasurer has opened separate accounts already to make tracking funds for different projects easier, but “it costs us money to do that,” said Village Mayor George Rivers.
Instead of their long-running system where the board would pool funding, they'll need to bond the money, incurring interest and lawyer fees.
Overall, the report directed the village to pass resolutions approving spending, to not mix funds from different projects, to make regular financial reports of those funds to board, and to make purchases through bidding or on state contract.
“The unfortunate thing with an audit is that they don't publicize the 98 percent you're doing correctly,” said Latourneau.
The treasurer already makes a detailed monthly report to the board. He also attends the board meetings, so he's available for any specific questions.
The village has own procurement policy that it follows, and it doesn't need adjustment following the report, said Rivers. They just need to start abiding it more carefully.
The village purchased three vehicles — a hybrid SUV and two pickups —without bidding and not through a state contract vendor. The board's understanding was that they simply had to meet or beat the state contract price, a mistake on their part, said Rivers.
“We weren't aware of these changes the state had done,” he said.
A similar audit about a decade ago found no such problems with village business, even though the same practices were in place then, he said.
When it came to the civic center ceiling, the village was bidding the work. But when mold was found, immediate remediation was required, said Rivers.
“We say it's an emergency repair, the auditors don't,” he said. “We were under pressure to get it done.”
Riverstook umbrage with the report's criticizing a wastewater pump purchase.
“That pump was paid for by an outside entity,” he said. “That should have never been in the report.”
The Independent Energy Efficiency Program paid for the pump, but the cost was entered into the village's accounting. Because a third-party organization paid the cost, there were no tax dollars involved and there's no bidding or state contract issues.
“We made some mistakes, some things should have been taken care of differently,” said Rivers.
*References to the town of Rouses Point were removed, and replaced with village, as Rouses Point is not a town. Thanks are due to Champlain Town Supervisor Larry Barcomb for finding the errors.