CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - The state Comptroller’s Office has completed its long-awaited audit of the the town of Canton’s books.
The audit criticizes the actions of the former town supervisor over the salary he collected. It also found that elected officials were paid more than their advertised salaries.
In 2017, the town council asked for an audit after a dust-up over then-supervisor David Button.
Button made a salary of $14,000 on paper, but was being cut checks for $43,000 per year. Button said it was because he had taken over bookkeeping duties when his wife retired.
In August 2017, Button paid back $73,000 to the town.
The town then paid out $58,000 to his wife for work she did off the books and requested an audit by the state.
The state Comptroller's Office said the supervisor may not appoint himself to the position of bookkeeper. If the supervisor performs bookkeeping functions, this must be done in his capacity as supervisor, not in a separate bookkeeper position. There was no authority for the supervisor to designate himself as holding the separate position of assistant bookkeeper or bookkeeper and receive a separate salary for those positions, according to the audit.
According to the audit, the town board must authorize and approve all salaries and wages paid to officers and employees and any benefits provided.
The audit said the board did not authorize salaries paid to officers and employees totaling $145,671 or certain health insurance benefits provided by the town.
It said the supervisor, town clerk and highway superintendent were all paid more than their advertised salaries.
According to the audit, the supervisor was overpaid $73,794, which was paid back.
The town clerk was overpaid $2,000 and the highway superintendent was overpaid $750 in 2017, the audit said.
The Comptroller’s Office made a number of recommendations to the board, including paying elected officials their advertised salaries, requiring the certification of payrolls by department heads or other direct supervisors, and consulting with the town attorney about the payments made to the town clerk and highway superintendent in excess of the advertised salaries, and seek recovery of these funds, as appropriate.
In its written response to the audit, the town board agreed with the findings and implemented plans of action.
However, when it comes to the audit's suggestion about recovering funds, the town board said, "because this was the responsibility of the former Supervisor David Button as the chief fiscal officer of the town of Canton to make sure this process was followed according to the law, and it was not done, the current town board has decided not to seek recovery of these funds. To expect the town clerk and highway superintendent to have to pay back overpayment of funds is fundamentally not fair, not right, due to the fact that...Button did not fulfill the fiduciary duties of the supervisor."
Button lost his bid for re-election in 2017 and was defeated by Mary Ann Ashley, who is the current supervisor.
7 News reached out to Button for comment on the audit.
“In the north country, municipalities have a tendency to do things a bit loose,” he said.
He said that he, his family and his supporters accepted some of the audit’s findings, but questioned others.
“We’re ready to move forward,” he said.
7 News also reached out to Ashley for comment.
“The report speaks for itself,” she said. “We’ve moved forward. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last two years.”