Watkins track must change security details
SCHUYLER COUNTY—Watkins Glen International has to contract differently for security services next year following an audit of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department by the state.
The audit, released Tuesday, Aug. 13, resulted from a separate investigation about the misappropriation of Monterey Fire Company funds by the former fire chief. The individual also worked as a Schuyler County Sheriff’s jail administrator. The audit by the New York State Comptroller’s Office was of the sheriff’s department between Jan. 1, 2011, and Feb. 28, 2013. The state wanted to see if the sheriff’s payroll was accurately recorded and reported, as well as if the county accurately accounted for civil fees and bail.
According to the state, it determined the county cannot enter into agreements with Watkins Glen International to provide security services like it has been doing. The agreement required the county to provide law enforcement services to WGI throughout its racing season, for a total of four events, and required WGI to pay the county for those services. The audit states because the track is a private entity, the county lacks authority to contract for the provision of police services to a private party.
Schuyler Legislative Chairman Dennis Fagan said, “it was originally addressed with the attorney general years ago” and was allowed. He added a “new set of eyes has a different perspective.” Fagan said it had never been an issue before, but the county will comply with the comptroller’s report.
He explained no other event at WGI will be affected this year. Fagan said the county is looking at alternatives to providing safety services at the track. However, he said the county doesn’t want to do anything that increases the cost to WGI. Fagan added a last resort would involve state legislation.
The audit also said officers sent from other counties were paid improperly, by not withholding taxes and reporting compensation. Over the last two years, the Schuyler has paid 351 individuals $233,840 for providing law enforcement services to WGI in connection with events at the racetrack. In these cases, the state found Schuyler was not using the payroll system when compensating its own personnel or personnel from the sending jurisdictions. Instead, the county paid these individuals as if they were independent contractors by check based on completed vouchers and issued them an IRS 1099 form at the end of the year. As a result, no taxes were reported or withheld, and no information was reported to the State retirement systems.
The sheriff stated personnel from the other jurisdictions were paid this way because of a New York State Attorney General opinion requested and obtained by a sending jurisdiction in November 1998. The Attorney General’s opinion, however, concluded that a prior agreement between Schuyler and WGI was not authorized by the mutual aid provisions because the agreement required WGI to directly compensate personnel from other counties, and the mutual aid provisions do not authorize personnel from other jurisdictions to be paid by a private party.
Other finds from the audit included:
• Three employees were not properly credited with vacation leave totaling $3,165.
• Three employees earned more vacation leave than allowed by the contract totaling $2,861.
• One employee was not credited for personal leave, received too much holiday leave, and had compensatory time increased instead of decreased, resulting in a net overstatement of leave balances totaling $659.
• One employee was credited with too much holiday leave totaling $210.
• One employee’s compensatory time was not reduced when used totaling $158.
The audit said these errors occurred and went undetected and uncorrected because the treasurer’s payroll clerk did not consistently apply the contract provision and the undersheriff did not review the department’s biweekly leave reports the payroll clerk provided to him.