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.