State audit criticizes Canton village and town justice courts for weak internal controls
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 6:27 am

CANTON – Both the Canton village and town justice courts have been criticized for weakness in internal accounting controls and for a lack of oversight in state audits.

Auditors from the state Comptroller’s Office found “significant weaknesses” in both the town and village justice courts’ internal accounting controls and a lack of oversight of the court’s operations by the justices and by the town and village boards.

The town and village clerks “performed all of the key aspects of the court’s cash accounting functions with limited oversight and the justices did not ensure that clerk duties were adequately segregated,” the audits said.

The audit was critical of the town’s “limited assurance that all moneys collected were properly recorded and accounted for and the risk is increased that justice court funds could be misappropriated without detection or correction.”

The auditors noted that an audit by the village mayor and village clerk-treasurer of the court’s records, and one conducted by two town board members of the town court, both found that bank reconciliations were not being performed, but neither authority made corrective action.

The auditors also pointed to cases of justices retiring from the posts who did not properly transfer authority for court money to the successor, and who did not close their accounts.

The village operates the courts as a combined court with the town, sharing two court clerks. The town and village pay the salaries of their respective justices. The town pays the clerks’ salaries and all other court costs, and then bills the village semi-annually for the village’s share of the court costs, the audit said.

The auditors said both town and village officials acknowledged the shortcomings in accounting pointed out by the auditors, and agreed to take corrective steps.

The audits covered the period from Aug. 1, 2010 to Aug. 22, 2011.

Village officials noted in their response that the Canton Town Court will assume jurisdiction for village justice as of Dec. 3.

“My office's audits of local governments improve their financial management practices," said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. "These audits are tools for local officials to make sure proper policies and procedures are in place to protect taxpayer dollars and provide the best possible service these taxpayer dollars can deliver."