COLONIE — An audit by the state Comptroller’s Division of Local Government and School Accountability found the town did not require a number of employees to file financial disclosure statements to ensure there were not conflicts of personal and town interests.
According to the audit, released at the end of last year, there were 113 employees and officers, 9 percent, who were supposed to file but did not, and 21 positions associated with the town, or 32 percent, who were required to file but did not file in 2017 and 2018.
In addition, two board members did not file, 71 officers or employees and 25 others did not filed the required disclosure statements late or they filed incomplete forms.
The audit covered from 2017 to 2018.
In response to the audit, Town Attorney Michael Magguilli, outlined the process the town follows to collect financial disclosure statements as required by state General Municipal Law, and “intends to attempt to improve compliance with the disclosure form reporting requirements by amending the Town Ethics Code to reduce the number of appointees required to file disclosure forms” and by “strengthening the consequences of filing to file a report or failing to file a complete report.”
Magguilli said in 2018 the town requires each of its some 686 employees to file a disclosure statement “regardless of their position and regardless of whether they serve with or without pay and regardless of whether they serve on an active or inactive board.”
“Many of the forms that were not returned were from individuals who are volunteers who serve on town committees that meet only on occasion, if at all,” he wrote. “Further, town records show that 70 of the forms that were not returned were from employees who left town service in the year in question.”
Other technical shortcomings in how the town oversees the ethics of its employees, according to the audit, is a failure to provide ethics compliance training and whistleblower protection to employees and “the Ethics Board did not receive similar training.”
While according to the audit it is the Ethics Board’s responsibility to ensure all employees required to fill out a financial disclosure statement do so, board members told auditors they were “unaware that required filers had not submitted statements until the statements were compiled by auditors.”
While Ethics Board members are given the forms for review of potential conflicts, the audit said it is not the board’s practice to compare “disclosed business interests for the purchasing department to identify potential interests in contracts that would be prohibited by General Municipal Law.
“Without careful review of the information reported on disclosure statements, and procedures to identify transactions that could pose a conflict of interest, taxpayers have less assurance that the town has a strong stance on transparency and can identify conflicts of interest of officers and employees that could compromise impartiality in decision-making,” according to the audit.
The audit issued a number of recommendations:
• Require ethics training for all employees
• Visibly post the town code of ethics in all municipal buildings
• Review or request the Ethics Board to review the code of ethics every five years
• The Ethics Board should obtain a list of vendors from the Accounts Payable Department to reference during its review of disclosure statements to help identify potential conflicts of interest.
• The Ethics Board should maintain a list of outside business interests of those who file disclosure statements to supply to appropriate purchasing department personnel to help identify potential conflicts.