IRS to Chatham: What about that $52K?

CHATHAM–The Village Board held a special meeting Friday, August 17 at 11 a.m. to appoint Robert Patterson village treasurer for approximately 30 hours a week, effective September 5. He’ll be paid at a rate not to exceed $45 per hour plus health and dental insurance.

Mr. Patterson is currently the village accountant, a job he was appointed to in March. His new appointment will last until Village Board elections in April. His appointment comes at the same time as the Village Board announced that the village owes the Internal Revenue Service thousands of dollars in unpaid payroll taxes, penalties and interest fees.

Village Attorney Ken Dow was at last week’s meeting along with about eight members of the public, including former village Treasurer Barbara Henry, who resigned in July. Residents had questions for the board about the state Comptroller’s Office coming to the village to conduct a risk assessment review and what the board plans to do moving forward about village finances.

Mayor Tom Curran said board members were working with Mr. Dow on a statement about the situation and that it would be released later that day. Mr. Dow emailed the statement to The Columbia Paper Sunday, August 19.

The statement details issues with the IRS, saying that some past tax payments, including payroll taxes, owed by the village remain outstanding. “These statements show a balance of $52,104.07 in actual taxes that the IRS indicates should have been paid…. Village Accountant Patterson advises us that to his knowledge, those funds were not missing, but would have been held in the agency account for payroll and disbursements,” the statement from the Village Board says.

The statement goes on to say: “In addition, however, the village is also required to pay interest charges of $2,333.36, which our accountant has advised cannot be waived by the IRS. The statements further identify penalties imposed upon the village, in the amount of $22,986.88, which the village is requesting to have waived.”

Of the $52,104.07, the board’s statement says, “Much of this has now been paid.”

Mr. Dow did not go into this kind detail at Friday’s meeting, but he did say that “the village is taking its duties seriously to make sure everything is in order.” He also stressed that “Nobody is trying to cover anything up.”

In the statement, the board says that Mr. Patterson had been looking into “finances, transactions, and record keeping for the period going back approximately two years. This review does not purport to be comprehensive, but has addressed areas considered to have vulnerabilities or where potential problems were believed to have been observed.”

According to minutes from a special meeting in late June the board hired Mr. Patterson for an overview audit of payroll, water/sewer, and the cash drawer.

The statement says that in Mr. Patterson’s review “some other possible discrepancies in record-keeping documents have been found, but these have generally not exceeded amounts in the hundreds of dollars. Furthermore, to the extent any discrepancies appear in records, they are not necessarily indicative of erroneous or improper transactions. The village is continuing to inquire into such questions. While consistency and perfect reconciliation of all financial records and transactions is the objective and steps are being implemented toward achieving this, it is also important to be clear that other than the tax matters, nothing that has been reviewed or found to date indicates any substantial financial liability or exposure to the village and its taxpayers.”

The statement also mentions that an auditor from the state Comptroller’s Office “visited the village offices for several days in July. The Comptroller’s Office has all of the information referred to above and was provided with other relevant village financial records. According to the village accountant, the Comptroller’s Office may, based upon this preliminary review and inquiry, prescribe further inquiry—including an audit—if they find it to be warranted.”

At Friday’s meeting, resident John Howe commended Trustee Jay Rippel for contacting the state about accounting issues. Mr. Howe also pointed out that last spring he had asked the board to contact the state about doing an audit at no cost to the village.

Mayor Curran said the Comptroller’s Office may also decide to come back to the village with suggestions.

Former Village Board member Joanne DelRossi asked what having the village accountant also serve as treasurer would mean for checks and balances. “We need professional people” looking at the books, she said.

She asked the board about oversight of the treasurer. “Where is the next set of eyes?” she asked.

“We put in new processes now,” said Mr. Rippel.

Trustee Mike Wollowitz read a list of changes in the oversight process he said are included in the statement from the board, which is also on the village website at villageofchatham.com.

“The trustees are far more engaged,” said Mayor Curran of the process.

Mr. Howe, who is an assistant chief in the village fire company, said he meets with Mr. Patterson to review the fire company budget and that the new system has “tightened-up enormously.”

Ms. Henry also made a statement at the meeting, saying there was no mystery about why she resigned. She said she indicated to Mayor Curran in June that she wanted to resign in October due to family obligations and commitments at her other job. She said she’d already cut back her hours. She also said at the meeting that she had offered to resign if the board felt it did not trust her work.

She said she worked with Mr. Patterson when he was at an accounting firm that worked for the village and after he left the firm, when he was on his own.

“My time was done here,” she said of working for the village. Ms. Henry was hired as village administrator in 2012. She became the clerk/treasurer in 2014 and was appointed just treasurer in 2017.

Also at the meeting:

• The board formally appointed Debra Meyers village clerk. Ms. Meyers has been working at the job since 2017 but had not been sworn in for that position

• They accepted the bid of $126,000 from Brunswick Electric Inc. for electrical construction for the water storage tank that will be replacing the village reservoir. Mr. Wollowitz said that the cost was higher than the expected but that they fit the specifications needed for the tank

• The board discussed $15,000 that needed to be transferred to the police budget for a down payment on the new police vehicle. Mayor Curran pointed out that this was not increasing the budget in any way.

The next board meeting is Thursday, September 13 at 7 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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