Cobleskill audit could spell trouble for village

By Jim Poole

The state Comptroller may be coming down hard on the Village of Cobleskill’s finances. Instead of returning its audit of Cobleskill’s books back to the village––the usual practice––the Comptroller sent the audit to the Schoharie County District Attorney, indicating severe issues. The audit, which covers 2016, hasn’t been made public yet. It comes 18 months after an independent audit scolded the village over 2016 money matters. Released in 2017, the independent audit criticized the village for overspending, errors in financial reports, a major breakdown in accounting and other mistakes. The Comptroller’s audit, which did not go to the village, may reach further. District Attorney Susan Mallery said she was surprised the audit was sent to her, adding “I think the nature is very serious.” In turn, she referred the case to the state Assistant Attorney General, explaining that their offices work together. “If they’re interested, we give them first crack at it,” Ms. Mallery said. “I thought it should go right to the Attorney General’s special unit on government finance.” “They have the specialists who do this work.” The audit and case is now in the hands of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, which “handles complex investigations into government corruption, fraud and abuse of authority,” according to the Attorney General’s website. There are no allegations of crimes yet, but the fact that the Attorney General is involved goes far beyond the standard procedure for the Comptroller’s audits for town and village finances. Usually, the Comptroller’s audit may find irregularities, make a report back to the town or village and allow 30 to 60 days for the municipality to make corrections, according to Mike West. Mr. West is the attorney for Schoharie County, nine towns and the Cobleskill-Richmondville School District, so he’s experienced in local government and finances. “Having the Comptroller send the audit to the DA is unusual, to say the least, especially when a different state agency gets involved,” Mr. West said. “It indicates they found something more. If there was nothing wrong, they’d just give the audit back to the village.” Samantha Moyster was Cobleskill’s clerk-treasurer in 2016 but was not rehired by the village. Sheila Wilday is clerk-treasurer now. Cobleskill Mayor Linda Holmes had “no comment at this time” about the audit. Efforts to get information from the Attorney General’s Office and Comptroller’s Office were unsuccessful.

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