County audit finds questionable expenses

Erie County Seal Building Office rath

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Several examples of questionable expenses are detailed in an audit of the Erie County Legislature.

The audit was done by Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw at the request of Legislature Chairman John Mills (R-Orchard Park).

The report includes purchases and expenses during the period January 2009 through December 2013.

Among the findings:

Internet access paid for despite office not being used:

The audit found that the county paid out $700 for Internet access at a Legislative district office that suffered fire damage in December 2011 and was unusable for nine months. The service at the district office was never canceled during that period.

Receipt of services without a formal contract:

In 2012 and 2013 the Legislature obtained services from two different photographers without putting the service out to bid and without a formal contract in place stating terms of service, rates, or ownership rights to the prints.

According to auditors the services rendered were at the rate of $150 per hour.

Reimbursements to employees:

An employee of the Legislature received 15 separate reimbursements totaling $4,655.43 for purchases made with personal funds on behalf of the Legislature. The reimbursements included items such as office supplies, food, soda, individual stamps, and cleaning supplies.

Furniture cleaning:

Eighteen chairs were professionally cleaned, deodorized and stain-protected at a cost of $676.20. The cost was incurred due to a sewer back up at a Legislator’s district office.

Questionable expenses:

Food purchases totaling $467.39 were submitted for reimbursement without documenting the business purpose.

Six quarter sheet cakes were purchased without documentation of the business purpose. The cake purchases totaled $147.97. Two of the cakes has the message “Good Luck.” A third cake had the message “Happy Birthday.”

A flower arrangement was purchased for the funeral of the father of a Legislature staff member at a total cost of $107 ($100 for the arrangement plus $7 for shipping).

Click here to see full audit report

“I want to thank Comptroller Mychajliw and his auditing team for fully reviewing the Legislature and our budget to determine where we can improve efficiencies and highlight past errors so we don’t continue to make the same mistakes. With the new majority leading the Legislature, I thought it was essential that we fully understood what had been happening for several years under Democratic leadership,” said Chairman Mills.

In response, Erie County Legislature Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant (D-Buffalo) tells News 4 that there were a “couple of missteps” along the way.

“I’m glad that the Comptroller did the audit. Overall, I think the audit showed that there’s no smoking gun, and that Democrats were good stewards of the taxpayer’s money,” Grant says.

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