Albany, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The treasurer of the West Seneca Fire District No. 1 apparently misappropriated $137,866 over eight years and paid $115,402 of it to his wife, according to an audit by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
"This fire district left the door open for fraud, and the treasurer walked right through," DiNapoli said. "These are taxpayers' dollars, and there must be checks and balances to protect them. Following our audit, the West Seneca Fire District is finally moving to ensure that protection."
DiNapoli's audit found that the Fire District's board failed to audit payments, review bank records or ask for invoices. As a result, they failed to discover 77 unauthorized Fire District checks that Treasurer Norman Baker wrote, payable to himself and his wife, Patricia Baker. The audit concluded that lax oversight by the district's Board of Fire Commissioners allowed the scam to continue for nearly eight years.
Norman Baker admitted to DiNapoli's auditors that he prepared fictitious claims and altered records to avoid detection. The district, which is funded primarily by property taxes, serves 6,000 residents in the town of West Seneca and had a $409,321 budget for the 2011 fiscal year. DiNapoli's office forwarded its findings to the Erie County District Attorney's Office, which is conducting a criminal investigation.
District officials agreed with the audit findings and said they will take corrective action. To view a copy of the audit, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/firedists/2011/westseneca1.pdf
"It appears that the Board's confidence in the Fire District Treasurer's performance of his duties has been misplaced," Fire Board Chairman John Mett stated in a letter to the State Comptroller's office.