by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Wheatfield Town Board officially accepted the retirement of Recreation Director Ed Sturgeon at a special meeting Monday, Dec. 23.
The town has been holding an Article 75 hearing under state Civil Service law after an audit from the state comptroller's office showed funds from the Fairmount Park concession stand were not correctly handled according to town policy.
Sturgeon, who as department head was responsible for keeping track of funds from his department, has agreed to retire by Feb. 1 with back pay and benefits, making the Article 75 hearing moot, according to Town Attorney Bob O'Toole.
"The matter has been resolved to everyone's satisfaction," O'Toole said.
The Tribune has obtained copies of the September 2013 executive summary of the audit for the period of Feb. 1, 2009, to June 5, 2013, from the state comptroller's office, as well as the review of the audit by town budget director Ed Mongold.
Sturgeon, who has been an employed by the town for about 10 years, was suspended in June 2013.
The state audit showed concession stand receipts weren't given to the town supervisor as correct practice requires, and that disbursements for supplies were made out of the concession stand cash drawer or a bank account controlled by Sturgeon, thus not reviewed and approved by the Town Board or recorded in the supervisor's accounting system. The audit found cash was removed from the concession stand totaling $11,304, but deposits in the bank totaled $9,665, a shortage of $1,639.
Some funds reportedly were found in an envelope in a refrigerator at the park and in a can of change locked in a desk at the recreation office.
According to the state report, Sturgeon, in an email to Supervisor Bob Cliffe on June 5, 2013 offered to repay the shortage amount to the town.
The recreation department is also responsible for collecting fees for sports banquets, sports fees, pavilion rentals and other miscellaneous payments. Cash receipts for 2012 collected by the recreation department and at the town's Youth Center totaled $34,165 and for the most part were properly recorded, deposited and remitted to the supervisor in a timely manner, according to the state report and Mongold's report.
Mongold's report from July 2013 showed that the major concerns with the snack bar operation were the funds weren't deposited with the town clerk/supervisor's office, purchases weren't approved by the Town Board, receipts and disbursements weren't recorded in the town's financial records and the bank used by the recreation department is not an official depository for the town. He also noted that there were records that could not be located for the examination period, including some records for the Youth Center from 2009 to 2011
The state audit also found that the town needed to update policies and procedures for information technology, including establishing a computer use policy and controls over computer inventory.
In other matters on Dec. 23:
•The board approved the addition of a streetlight at Colvin Boulevard and Elaine Drive (behind the Summit Healthplex).
•After the meeting, the board spent an hour with engineer Tim Walck and Highway Superintendent Art Kroening discussing flooding issues that began Dec. 22 due to rain and melting snow, especially at Wilrose Court and the corner of Clescent and Lenmart drives.