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Legislators say no to audit of trail department

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators have voted down a motion by Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, to conduct an audit of the county trail department at a cost of $5,000.

Before the vote Tuesday, which also garnered support from Legislators Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, and Jerry H. King, R-West Leyden, discussion focused on the cost of and need for the audit, which would include an inventory of county-owned equipment, as well as financial records since the inception of the department in 2006.

Mr. Hathway said he would like an objective outside agency to conduct the audit, while Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, suggested Recreational Trail Coordinator Jacqueline L. Mahoney could perform the task.

Mrs. Mahoney was appointed in May following the termination of the former trail coordinator, Robert C. Diehl, for charging the county for gravel delivered to his home for personal use. He was found guilty earlier this month of third-degree attempted grand larceny, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and official misconduct.

Mrs. Mahoney, in attendance at the meeting, said she was too busy with current projects and grant work to tackle the audit.

Calling the proposed audit “a witch hunt,” Mr. Lucas asked legislators what action they could take if the audit discovered missing material or equipment, as it would not prove where it went.

“Why would we pay for an audit to find out something is missing from four years ago? It’s a waste of money,” he said. “If we feel there are issues, now is the time to keep better track of what’s going in and out.”

In discussing the cost of the proposed audit, Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, said, “I’d like to see $5,000 go into new projects, not old ones.”

Mr. Hathway said if money was the issue, a full-time temporary employee could be hired to conduct an in-house audit under the guidance of county Treasurer Patricia L. O’Brien, an idea that received little consideration.

Following the meeting, Mr. Hathway responded to Mr. Lucas’s comments calling the audit a witch hunt.

“If I was trying to do that, I would have requested it at the time Mr. Diehl was arrested,” he said. “I didn’t want to taint the legal process. By his own admission, the former trail coordinator’s record-keeping was less than stellar.”

When asked what prompted the request for an audit now, Mr. Hathway said, “It’s never a bad time to do due diligence when we are spending other people’s money.”

The county’s trail department operated in 2013 with a budget of $164,000, which included an anticipated $80,000 from sales of trail permits.

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