New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in a February 6 press release, rebuked some of the town of Olive’s management practices, stating that, “Internal controls over information technology do not adequately protect the town’s electronic data. The town board has not adopted an acceptable computer use policy, a breach notification policy or a disaster recovery plan. In addition, the board does not adequately audit claims presented for payment.”
Specifically, the Comptroller’s report notes that its audit covering January 1, 2011, to August 28, 2012, found that 27 payments totaling $24,823 were made without required documentation and four payments totaling $102,801 did not have the required quotes.
“I don’t know what triggered them up in Albany to do an audit,” said Olive town supervisor Berndt Leifeld in response to the Comptroller’s report, and press release. “They were up in Shandaken, they were down in Ulster. It seems like they just said, ‘Let’s go to Olive this time” and they found the same thing they find everywhere — departments signing vouchers and checks…”
Leifeld explained what happened, in his view. A truck driver, or some other employee, goes to their department head, say the highway superintendent, and he’s not around. So his secretary signs twice.
“It sounds like a lot but it’s no big deal,” Leifeld said. “These things happen…it’s not like anyone was stealing anything. We just have to be more careful with the procedures, no matter how small a town we are.”
DiNapoli, who said in the release, that “These audits are tools for local officials to make sure proper policies and procedures are in place to protect taxpayer dollars…”, elaborated. “Board members were not aware that they should perform a deliberate and thorough review of claims. The board’s failure to adequately audit claims increases the risk that the goods and services that are approved for payment will not actually be received and that the best value for purchases will not be obtained.”
Regarding the use of town computers, DiNapoli said, “The board did not adopt an acceptable computer use policy, breach notification policy or formal disaster recovery plan. As a result, the town’s computer systems and data are at risk of damage and loss, and employees may not be adequately prepared to notify affected individuals in the event that their private information is compromised.”
To this issue, Leifeld said the state directive was still young, at most two years old, and something the town “just hadn’t gotten around to later. But we’ll get the policies sent from Albany, adapt them, and then pass them now.”
Fracking ban, Scenic Byway
As for other town business, Leifeld noted that the town’s upcoming monthly meeting next week would include discussion of, and probable passage of a local law banning the technique known as hydrofracking in Olive, furthering a move the town started last April when it adopted a moratorium against fracking. Then, in March, the town plans to again look at a long-pending proposal to have the Route 28 corridor from Woodstock to Andes names a New York State Scenic Byway.
Last year, meetings held on the issue became rancorous after project opponents stymied local meetings with talks of a U.N. Agenda 21 takeover of local planning issues through such means, along with all planning efforts. A similar proposal was voted down in nearby Hurley based on board members fears of a loss of home rule to Byway cooperative agreements there.
This year, talk of Agenda 21 plots has quieted somewhat in lieu of concerns about assault weapon bans and the state’s new call for better gun registration procedures. Although Leifeld said he wouldn’t expect quiet when the Scenic Byway returns to the Olive agenda.
On a personal level, Leifeld reiterated his decision, announced recently, that he would not be running for reelection in November after 24 years as town supervisor and 11 years before that as a town board member.
“I think Bruce LaMonda is going to run, and it looks like (Republican boardmember) Pete Friedel’s interested, too,” he said. “I’m just tired of all this. I’m 76, I had my gall bladder removed. I’ve served my time and it’s someone else’s turn, now.”