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Village may audit fire department

PENN YAN—The Penn Yan fire department receives $42,000 in their annual contract with the Village of Penn Yan and concerns have been raised about use of those funds.
An ad hoc committee that is reviewing the issue met on May 13. The committee is chaired by trustee Michael Christensen who is chairman of the village public safety committee.
Trustee Wayne Davidson said he and trustee Richard Stewart met with the fire chiefs and talked about how the fire department is organized. They received a document noting what the department  believes can be purchased with the funds. He said the department does not have a separate code of ethics and does not think they have adopted the village code of ethics.
Trustee Chris Christensen, said she had reviewed expenditures back to May of 2005 and found that often records were incomplete and sometimes could not determine what was for food and lodging. She said she found there were some expenses that probably should not have come out of the fund, but not a great deal. The amount paid to chiefs and assistant chiefs for expenses was part of the review.
Michael Christensen said the other document that surfaced was an audit done when funds were stolen from Sheldon Hose in 2007. He said, “This is the first time I’ve seen it. One thing is very clear. This is not a blame game here.”
Michael Christensen said to remedy the situation the audit may be reviewed and the village may have to come up with some sort of process. He said, “Ultimately the process for fire department dollars would come from the finance committee.” He suggested the ad hoc committee look at the history of the contract and review the expenditures.
Mayor Bob Church, who is a member of the fire department, said, “I understand it does not have to have a formal audit.” The last audit of village court cost $4,400. Church noted there could be a similar cost if a formal audit is done, but, “We want to make sure to do it right. If there has been some sloppy bookkeeping, fix it. This committee must make that recommendation.”
Michael Christensen apologized for the lack of direction, both from past and current village boards. He said, “This is a very dedicated group of volunteers. It is inherent to us to set policies and procedures.”
Third assistant fire Chief Mike Clancy, who is department secretary/treasurer, outlined procedures. He said, “Companies keep their own accounts. Money is used for uniforms, things in the company room, hats, patches and parade uniforms. Traditionally in the past the departments had to buy a lot of their pagers. It’s all for the benefit of the department.”
Audience member Robert Hawley asked if there were receipts for the $57,000 paid to chiefs over the past several years. Michael Christensen said Chris Christensen has reviewed the records and there are some documents missing.
Church said, “Before this came out we wanted the companies to audit their own books. It was poor bookkeeping. There needs to be recommendations on going forward.” He said, “We are part time trustees. We don’t know all the rules. If there is a question, as there has been recently, I want it to be answered. If we have to pay for an audit, we’ll pay for it. These guys all have full time jobs. They need guidelines.”
The next meeting was set tentatively on June 10 at 4 p.m. in the village office on Elm Street. Michael Christensen said “Until then we will review the audit and possibly discuss the history with village clerk/treasurer Shawna Wilber. If something comes up sooner, I will call a special meeting.” 

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