Lake Placid Village Mayor Craig Randall defended his decision Monday to keep embattled village Clerk Kathryn McKillip working while officials probe whether to pursue charges against her.
Speaking to an unusually large crowd of 40 residents, Randall said McKillip no longer handles village cash and isn't a threat to the taxpayer.
"The clerk in her capacity as a clerk does a very good job. Suspension right now - while this investigation goes on - comes with full pay and benefits. Then I have to go out and find substitution for that period of time, so it increases our costs," he said. "The corrective actions that we've taken have removed all of the issues from the clerk's jurisdiction which she was inappropriately given back in 2008."
A recent audit by the state Comptroller's Office discovered that since 2004, McKillip has received nearly $40,000 in improper leave time accruals. The document alleges that while she was temporarily acting as village treasurer, she received about $22,000 that she hadn't even earned.
And residents like Connie Issleb aren't pleased with the lack of board oversight.
"The big thing is the time that was not entitled," she said. "I think that's the big problem that most of the people here have."
Councilman Zay Curtis pointed out that in 2008 McKillip was assigned work which she wasn't properly trained.
"She is a very good clerk, but given accounting functions. She's not qualified to be an accountant. That's where the problem comes from," he said. "The people that are here - the department heads that we have - I believe are an outstanding bunch of people."
McKillip - who usually keeps minutes at village board meetings - had been excused and was not present.
Randall and the board are pointing most of the blame for the scathing audit at outdated or unclear policies and procedures.
The audit also found that several department heads also received unapproved cash.
But Randall drew a clear distinction between the investigation surrounding the clerk and the unapproved money that went to the department heads.
"We should not look at these individuals as having conducted themselves in a way that is contrary to what is in the best interest of the village," he said. "The lack of policy is a board duty and we will address that."
Two of the village's five labor agreements include language that allows unionized employees to sell their untapped sick and vacation time.
Randall pointed the finger at a historically unclear policy rather than non-union village management.
Residents in attendance lauded the work of the current village board - which, for the most part, was not in office when the alleged mishandling of funds occurred.
Village officials said they have yet to reach out to any law enforcement agencies regarding McKillip. Randall said an internal investigation will be completed before the board decides how to proceed.
But Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague told WNBZ Monday that she has already filed for a special prosecutor to independently investigate whether McKillip should face criminal charges.