Human Services Audit Finds Records 'Shredded'; DA Contacted

Town board ordered external audit following the retirement of long-time director and other workers.

An audit of following the retirement of long-time stewards last year has revealed records were destroyed, according to town officials. 

Len Bernard, the town budget officer, told the East Hampton Town Board on Thursday that after a 10 month audit, the firm Nawrocki Smith issued "a scathing report" for the department that oversees the adult day care, in-home services, nutrition, transportation, counseling and case management and the family resource center programs.

The major finding, he said, was that certain files were "destroyed or missing," which led to the firm contacting the State Comptroller, who in turn recommended contacting the Suffolk County District Attorney's office -- though it was not immediately clear why.

Bernard said that a final letter from the auditor that has not yet been made public says that employees told the firm documents were shredded by outgoing management last year. 

The audit also revealed the human service department also did not have a license to provide psychotherapy counseling services. Current Director Diane Patrizio has discontinued that service while seeking the license. 

At the end of Supervisor Bill Wilkinson's first year in office, the town board voted to spend $15,000 on the external audit following the retirement of the department's director for a quarter-century Edna Steck. She was recognized by Legis. Jay Schneiderman, I-Montauk, for her work.

Three other long-time members of the department also retired in 2010.

Wilkinson said on Thursday that while he was accused of a witch hunt, "It was at least my experience that any time you had tenured management in a particular division - especially if government contracts were involved - retire, you conducted an audit of that department," he said. 

Nawrocki Smith was tasked with analyzing internal controls developed by the department administration and whether duties and controls were properly implemented. The firm examined paperwork, such as case notes, grant applications and financial summaries. 

On the recommendation of the DA's office, boxes of files were sealed early on in the process when there was an inclination documents were missing. In some instances, there were empty folders with the tabs still on them as to what the file was supposed to contain, he said.

According to Bernard's account of the audit, a "tremendous amount of documentation had been destroyed, such as summer youth employee records from 2007 to 2009, budget development information, community service logs, resumes that were supposed to be kept on file, among others.

"The list contains 36 items that were either shredded or believed to be destroyed last year," Bernard said. 

He said the firm tried to interview three former top human services department management and a former town councilperon who was the liaison to the department. "To date our requests to conduct the interviews were not accommodated," Bernard read from the statement. 

The audit will be made available to the public on Friday morning. 

The firm recommended 26 conditions be addressed, such as adopting better guidelines and following policies. For instance, Bernard said, the audit found that a worker was receiving mileage driving to and from home. 

Patrizio has already corrected five of the 26 issues, he said. 

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley asked if the revelation of missing documentation and lacking license for certain services put the town at risk for having grant providers try to recoup funding. 

Bernard said that was probably something to be addressed in executive session with the auditing firm. 

From the audience, former town councilwoman Debra Foster spoke up: "Why isn't this executive session?," she said, adding that she believed it was a personnel matter that should be discussed out of the public's eye. 

Bernard said he had met with Town Attorney John Jilnicki, who read both the findings, and felt it could be discussed in an open meeting. 

Foster, who was wiping away tears, called it "a public hanging." 

The supervisor said that town officials had not mentioned anyone by name publicly, while Foster said, "I think it was cruel." 

"We are talking about fiduciary obligations," Quigley said. "As a town board, this is absolutely our obligation to investigate practices of our departments."

Councilwoman Julia Prince asked if any other external audits of departments, where long time leaders had retired, would be done. 

Bernard said it had been discussed, but the ultimately decision rested with the board.

Quigley said that internal audits had been done of several departments. 

Check back for more updates on this story. 

A correction was made to this story about the amount of money spent on the aduit. It was $15,000. 

Rona Klopman September 03, 2011 at 03:09 PM
I FOILED this document two weeks ago and Mr. Bernard refused to give me access to it. So much for the legality of a document that is FOILED. It is supposed to be available in 5 business days to the public. I guess they wanted to make a public mockery out of the department through use of the media. Edna Steck has been a devoted employee to this Town for many years.. Shame on this administration!
High Way Worker September 03, 2011 at 03:50 PM
You all know where I come from. There are other departments and department heads that need investigating -- one of which Mrs. Klopman has defended and now there is a human right investigation going on thank goodness. Listen, as a town worker I don't get reimbursed for driving to and from work, I need a certain license to operate equipment and if I destroyed my time card to cover up missing a day of work and trying to get paid for it I would probably be fired. It seems from the story above and what I saw on LTV all those types things went on. So why not identify it and correct it? Why not say who was responsible and who now must fix it? 26 problems identified by an independent investigator is a lot to me (and if I remember it was a 5 Democrat town board that hired this same firm to investigate the financial mess of the past -- so these guys are not political puppets). We all like Edna, but if there were problems, then there were problems and they must be exposed and fixed. Man, some of the comments above sound similar to McGintee defenders when all the stuff on him started to come out. Bill McGintee is a nice guy, he helped me when he was a policeman, he has a great family, he works at the church, how can the do this to him, etc. And we all know where that led to.
High Way Worker September 03, 2011 at 03:51 PM
I agree that there are other departments and areas where the town spends money that should be looked at like Mr. Drew says above. I guess we will see if this administration follows through and does it. And as far as stuff being FOILED (whatever that really means, I guess she asked for it) -- Mrs. Klopman -- your buddy Deb Foster was arguing that the report which was finalized based on what I saw on LTV just recently should not be released at all, at any time -- so you all should get your act together on what is and is not allowed to be made public. More sunshine the better - what about the report on your Buddy the Highway boss? Shouldn't we see what that investigation showed? Wouldn't releasing it embarrass him right before the election? But no this administration has not done it because I assume they are following the rules, like they followed the rules in this Human Services case where they had to release the final report because it was all public information. Man, when we suffer in my department I got to read this hypocritical bull.
Len Bernard September 03, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Someone just telephone me and recommended I look at the Patch article on the Human Services Audit report. Specifically, Mrs. Klopman's comment. She did come to my office several weeks ago and asked for a copy of the audit report. Although I found it a little unusual that she thought she knew this report was finished, I told her it was in draft and that there was a letter that would accompany the report and once we received that letter everything would be released. She seemed peeved that I would not give her the draft and demanded it is public information. I agreed it was most likely public information and eventually would be released. For her to now state that someone attempted to make a mockery of any group of employees or former employees by discussing the report in public seems a little disingenuous to me in that two weeks earlier she was criticizing me for not giving her a draft and arguing that the report should be released to everyone. The report has now been finalized, the management letter has been received, and the Town Attorney has opined that all the information can be disclosed to the public -- which is exactly what Mrs. Klopman wanted two weeks ago. The report and letter is available in the Town Clerk's office like I told Mrs. Klopman two weeks ago it would be once finalized and approved by the legal department. Thanks to Patch for making this format available for a direct and immediate response to a misleading statement.
Cannot Believe This September 03, 2011 at 06:14 PM
I'm not the brighest person in the world, but I'm not the dumbest either. I want to Thank Joan Lycke for identifying Edna Steck as the destroyer of documents. I couldn't figure out who it was from the article and the previous posts. it could have been like any number of people. Why does Mrs. Lycke think it was edna steck? Also in the independnent Julia prince called an audit a witch hunt. I sup[pose that audit is the one described above? I think it funny she mentions the audit like a couple of days before it is released and calls it a witch hunt then when its released it has 20 problems and says records were shredded and all that stuff that I guess happened during her time on the town board. And sometimes nice people do stupid things. Look at Ted hults. I went to school with him and he is a really nice guy but he did something stupid and he paid. Why is say edna Steck different? If she did something stupid or wrong why should we not know. Even though the report doesn't say who did what Mrs. Lycke thinks Edna steck did it so why is it different than Teddy? And why was he left to drown? I cannot believe this.
Springs Resident September 03, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Anyone who reads these government articles is interested in what is going on and absolutely knows the person or people they are talking about. I can't believe anyone would believe otherwise.
Cannot Believe This September 03, 2011 at 07:01 PM
I actually figured it could be one of or a combination of three or four people, but not THE person if there is such a thing as THE person. And your damn right we are interested because government managers doing what they want and acting anyway they please has got to stop. I dont care who they are Hasnt this town government learned its lesson yet. keep cleaning it up in my opinion.
sloppy September 03, 2011 at 07:42 PM
If you are going to shred documents that should have been kept you should shred everything and not leave the labels. I guess they totally got rid of some of the stuff and were sloppy with the destruction of the other stuff. And from Sloppy to Kloppy ---- you can't have it both ways. It can't be public info one week and not public info the next because you don't like the content.
Rona Klopman September 03, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Don't know the content of the report because I was never given access to it! I believe in facts and until I read them myself I don't believe what this government says verbally. As far as the word FOILED, it means Freedom of Information Legislation which says every the every government document is PUBLIC INFORMATION!!!! It's the law of the land!!!! As far as Mr Bernard's reaction to my FOILing the document-it did finally get it released!
Springs Resident September 03, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Didn't Rick Murphy state in his editorial a few weeks ago that material The Independent foiled for hasn't even been released?? They release what they want to. Didn't you know that is what transparency is all about to them.
sloppy September 04, 2011 at 01:10 AM
I read the editorial again and the bottom line is you can only release what you are allowed to release by law and you can only release what you have. And to Kloppy -- from Sloppy -- not every government document is public information. That is one of the dumbest statements I have ever read. Just look it up, there is a whole list of information in the law that cannot be released. Everything that should be released must always be released but certain things can't be disclosed just ask the Justice Department and the IRS.
sloppy September 04, 2011 at 01:16 AM
To springs resident -- on Tuesday I'm going to fred Overton and will ask him what has not been released and why. The Town Clerk is responsible for administering the FOIL law and I trust Fred releases everything that is required and if there is a question he has some authority he goes to outside the town to get opinions.
Tina Piette September 04, 2011 at 04:15 AM
Rona, Deb, Sylvia, Zach, Peter and Julia - you have the factual information provided at an appropriate time . . . now what? It seems to me that this independant audit (vs. an internal one - which would certainly be criticized as "political" - no?) contains information (or points out the lack thereof due to the destruction of FINANCIALLY RELATED DOCUMENTS) that will help the Town and a Department move forward with grant applications and budgeting in a prudent and legal manner. Any elected official who would hopefully recognize, factually, that there were "accounting" problems within this particular department and town government as a whole, yet calls bringing them to light a "witch hunt", is ignoring the reality of the report and the direction I would hope an elected offiicial would take to correct (and therefore try to prevent) such problems from happening in the future. I believe trying to divert, politicize, or defend bad practices would be totally irresponsible on the part of any elected official.
Debra Brodie Foster September 04, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Any audit, if done by a reputable firm, is acceptable as files are turned over to a new administration. It was the unprofessional " you are guilty until you prove you are innocent" attitude demonstrated by Len, Theresa and Bill that was unseemly and frankly heart-breaking to watch. Did anyone get in touch with these dedicated employees with 25 years of excellent service to our residents and tell them what was going to be read pubicly ? No. Would it not have been proper to meet in executive session to hear their explanations first? For example, the mileage rebate for home care workers using their own cars to visit families in need was negotiated in a signed union contract. Yes, files were shredded as she was retiring... files that were 20 to 15 years old or where the client had moved on or had died. How do I know, because having worked with them as a teacher and Town Board member, I have enough trust in their integrity to treat these effective, dedicated town employees with respect no matter what the outcome ,so I asked. It is not the audit that is to blame, it is the continued aggressive, intimidating manner that the "Wilkinson team" demonstrates time and again toward community workers who are our friends and neighbors. You can still have an efficient government by setting high standards and treating each employee with respect, not threatening them into submission(especially the women). This is a proud community of neighbors, not the corporate boardroom at Disney.
sloppy September 04, 2011 at 02:45 PM
I watched the presentation on LTV and I read the article above and it says files from 2007 to 2009 were shredded and files from 2010 were shredded. By my count that is less thas a year old and a couple of years old. Where does Deb Foster get 15 to 20 years from? I have not heard or read that about what the auditors found. Where is she getting the information. I also heard the people she speaks about were contacted multiple times to be interviewed and would not be interviewed. It sounds like they ignored multiple attempts to be interviewd. How is that not fair. And she talks about workers using their cars and getting reimbursed for it, but the finding described on TV is that they got that payment and money they should not have. I think that was the concern by the auditors especially someone getting money to drive to and from work. That can't be allowed can it. I wish Patch or someone would put the hole report on line and this letter that is referred to. I guess I would like to see where it says the documents were 15 to 20 years old because everything I heard on LTV and read in the articles is the documents were very recent. Foster did nothing to stop McGintee and his people and look what happened. I hope Wilkinson stays aggressive.
MARTIN DREW September 05, 2011 at 02:50 AM
This administration to date refuses to Audit Publuc Acce$$ i$$ue$. LTV has convienently disappeared from the liasion categories . Last known it has been (9) years of turning a blind eye to the topic . Contract with TOEH requires annual review ... Contract with Cablevision is every two years for joint review .. This administration is pushing Steve Gaines ; the film festival guy ... Yet no audit or overview of public monies being put in LTV coffers. Due diligence a joke ; District Attorney doesn't care to hear of the " contractual i$$ue$; Theresa Quigley refuses to address the topic ; although she chairs the new "Cablevision Committee" of which I am member ..she has taken over the duties of the committee to " Hammer out a deal with Cablevision ".. With Wilkinson pulling the strings .. A decade of public malfeasence and the money train rolls on ($700k a year ) no witch hunt ; NOTHING ! This transparency attitude here is a political joke ! Im not saying Wilkinson team created LTV me$$ ; but they do NOT seem interested in cleaning it up . Yet ready & willing here ? Welcome to the world of politics .
Loretta Lynch September 05, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Seems that the person who wrote the comment "Cannot Believe This" did not read the full editorial. Don't blame Joan Lycke. It doesn't take a genious to know who they were talking about. The Editorial used her name saying she was the one who retired. MMMM, wondering if you have a gripe with Joan?
sloppy September 05, 2011 at 07:15 PM
The only mention of Mrs. Steck is the paragraph below: "At the end of Supervisor Bill Wilkinson's first year in office, the town board voted to spend $15,000 on the external audit following the retirement of the department's director for a quarter-century Edna Steck. She was recognized by Legis. Jay Schneiderman, I-Montauk, for her work." It doesn't even allude to her as being involved in the shredding. Like the blogger said, it could have been any one of a group of people but Mrs. Lycke was the first one to associate the act with Mrs. Steck. And to Martin Drew - I agree that someone should be looking at LTV as Rick Murphy has suggested. The executive director of LTV actually voiced a political ad for I think the Democrat supervisor candidate two years ago which should never happen.
MARTIN DREW September 05, 2011 at 07:34 PM
For Sloppy - i have requested ithe LTV audit for (9) years ... Rick Murphy just reported on an OLD i$$ue ... I reported it ti the DA as well .. They are not interested in "contractual" i$$ue$ ... they dont consider poor mgt. a crime .. I will seek out state comptroller next ... See how the state views taxpayer malfeasence. $700k a year / $400k in salaries and LTV has no obligation to public according to them ... Pretty nice deal in the taxpayers back ... Anyone needs proof .. I have documents since its inception ... LTV is a money pit .. Plain and simple ... Edna Steck will be fine .. She has given her careeer to EH residents ... This is election year mudd !
Springs Resident September 05, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Regardless of what really happened and why in Human Services will come out. Everyone I have talked to though has a problem of when & why this came out the way it did and at the time it did. No one thinks it is appropriate except for maybe the few Republican operatives and you can tell who they are by responses here and on 27 East not only about this issue but every other one too. What will decide this election is our local people and their feelings. Hopefully, the best man will win.
Loretta Lynch September 05, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Springs Resident, I hope your right!
sloppy September 05, 2011 at 11:56 PM
It seems to have come out because the audit was finished and Democrats like Mrs. Klopman were demanding to see it immediately upon being considered finished. And to say "regardless of what really happened". What really happened is in writing in a report by an independent accounting firm that was hired by Democrats to audit the town. It seems their findings are well documented and supported and that they gave the former administrators multiple chances to respond, which is probably why the audit took even longer than it should have. Springs Resident probably said the same thing about McGintee and looked what happened. I have been around town quite a bit the last two days and I am hearing that people are not surprised. That is frightening because if people are not surprised that means that after McGintee anything is believable. That sucks for all the town workers that do their jobs well.
Katy Casey September 06, 2011 at 12:45 AM
And, we're back. In my opinion Bill Wilkinson is a good man getting bad advice. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was fond of quoting Abraham Lincoln, who was fond of telling the following story: exiting president James Buchanan warned Lincoln against appointing men "smarter than he", to wit Lincoln supposedly replied, ..."pray tell me who is smarter than me, I wish to appoint them too." William Seward was Lincoln's Secretary of State and engineered the Gettysburg Address. Need I say more?
Rona Klopman September 06, 2011 at 01:10 AM
It's important to set the record straight. I attend all Board meetings and was present when the Board passed a resolution authorizing the payment to the firm of Nawrocki and Smith for $15,000 for the Human Services audit. I was astonished when Fred Overton told me that Len Bernard would not give me a FOILed copy of the document. I, therefore, went in to see Mr. Bernard and address this. Mr. Bernard indicated that "the Town Board had not read it yet" and that is why I couldn't have it. My question to Mr. Bernard was, "How could the Board issue payment without reading the document?" As a taxpayer, this was upsetting to me. I guess Mr. Bernard has conveniently forgotten our conversation in his office.
Katy Casey September 06, 2011 at 01:42 AM
Kloppy, Sloppy, Tina & Deb: FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) is only applicable to releasable documents. Financials, correspondence, management directives, policy initiatives, RFP bidding, yadda yadda yadda. You all know this, smart, competent women that you are. Audits are made public as they are made public. There are required deadlines imposed by governing bodies and oversight committees but they are only released as required. Internal audits, ordered by the governing body, may be FOIL'ed but are ultimately public property of the sitting administration. That may be an oxymoron but it means they don't have to show their hand if they don't want to. Let's get back to the issue at hand. Human Services. Edna Steck. If you think Edna misappropriated funds raise your hand... I didn't think so.
Len Bernard September 06, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Again, I must respond to Mrs. Klopman. When she came to see me I told her the report was in draft and that the final letter was not yet received. I told her as soon as the letter was received the report would be released. The report was released within 24 hours of receiving the management letter and was in the the Clerk's Office for public distribution within 36 hours. I can't see how the town could be any more responsive or transparent. It's not a matter of when Mrs. Klopman wants something, it's a matter of when something can and should be released. As far as the payment. As most people who deal in municipal government know once the field work and report has been drafted the auditors are paid. Findings do not change. Clarity may be improved from draft to final, but that is about it. In addition, I am expecting a final bill for the last segment of the review -- the management letter. I told all this to Mrs. Klopman, but I guess either she did not understand or did not want to understand. Again I thank Patch for allowing me to correct the record in a direct and timely manner.
todd September 07, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Len.. I also am concerned about taxpayer monies being wasted on LTV. Any plans to audit the organization? Also, why is the owner of East Hampton Studios paying a below market rate for his town land lease when the facility obviously has abandoned motion picture production in favor of special events and other activities? Thanks and look forward to your response.
MARTIN DREW September 07, 2011 at 05:12 PM
My guess.. while Mr. Gaines is a candidate the GOP will NOT audit LTV i$$ue$ . Gaines also the co-founder of Hamptons International Film Festival ...has ties to the LTV board . This $ituation is ongoing with no end in sight . $700k a year is way to much money for public acce$$ Look to Southampton to compare the subject . But here is a example how politics rules the day. Embarass a community ICON while turning a blind eye to collusion in its own backyard . Taxpayer$ wake up ! Register to vote .Vote and the choice is yours ; Dont and the choice is theirs . Can we afford more of the same ? Edna Steck shredding controversey ; political . LTV i$$ue ... deliberate ongoing malfeasence . Please Mr. Benard ;explain away ... Use Patch to set the record straight in a timely manner ..
Kevin Gray September 08, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Thank you,Tina. I believe all the, "hemming and hawring" is political grandstanding. This administration has a duty look under all the rocks and "fix" the problems they find (as they have been doing.) The fact they had an independant audit speaks volumes.
eve November 02, 2011 at 06:47 PM
My Town I grew up in East Hampton and raised my family there. As a nurse I had a dream of helping people who did not have medicare and would never apply for medicaid. The baymen ,the artists ,the writers, the locals,our people. I had a vision of how we could help and brought it to the town board after bringing it to Edna. There was no question there were people hurting and in need. How could we help was the reply of Edna and the board.There was a goodness and kindness and fairness in our town and the elected and appointed officials. Now that has turned to bigitry ,hatred, and carlessness for the most vunerable of our community. What happened to neighbor helping neighbor.I come there yearly and am almost ashamed to say that I am from a town who has turned on the most needy and those that serve them...what is wrong with the towns people today?


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