Village Justice Court

http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/may06/051806.htm

http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/2005/villages/patchogue.htm

 

Village of Patchogue Executive Summary



The Village of Patchogue (Village) is located in Suffolk County, New York. The Village provides typical government services, including a Village Justice Court (Court) that is served by an elected Village Justice (Justice) who serves on a part-time basis. The Justice’s responsibilities include: imposing, collecting, and disbursing fines and surcharges, bail, civil fees, and sometimes restitution. The Justice is required to properly account for all moneys handled by the Court and report all fines and surcharges, fees and forfeited bail collected monthly to the Office of the State Comptroller’s Bureau of Justice Court Fund (JCF) for all adjudicated cases. The Court reported receipts from fines and fees totaling over $298,000 for the fiscal year ended May 31, 2003.The Justice, whose term had commenced in April 2002, requested an audit of the Court because he was concerned about a significant decrease in revenues, the late deposit of cash receipts, and the late submission of monthly reports to the JCF.

Scope and Objectives

During this audit, we examined the financial transactions of the Court for the period June 1, 2002, through May 31, 2003.

The objective of our audit was to evaluate the Court’s financial management system to determine if moneys were properly accounted for. We focused our audit on the following questions:

  • Did the Justice Court maintain complete records of the Court’s activity and remit in a timely manner all moneys received in his official capacity to appropriate agencies or individuals?
  • Were there adequate management controls in place to provide for proper segregation of duties, and the monitoring of Court financial operations, including annual audits?

Audit Results

Our audit procedures relating to the financial records of the Court disclosed a number of significant deficiencies in the Court’s recordkeeping, management oversight, cash management and financial reporting. These deficiencies caused a number of errors and/or irregularities to have occurred and to remain undetected and uncorrected.

Our audit disclosed the Court collected moneys that were not reflected in the Court’s records and were not turned over to the JCF. We estimated that over $37,500 in vehicle and traffic violations and Village code violations paid to the Court during fiscal year 2002-2003 were not accounted for. In addition, because press-numbered receipts or other cash records were generally not maintained for parking violation fines, we could not determine if all such fines were accounted for. We also found that records pertaining to bail receipts were inadequate.

We found that the Court had numerous internal control weaknesses. There was no inventory control of press-numbered receipts and receipts were not issued for all cash collected by the Court. In addition, bank accounts were not reconciled and cash was deposited as much as seven weeks after receipt. We found a lack of segregation of duties. The former senior Court Clerk, with only very limited oversight provided by the part-time Justice, performed virtually all of the Court’s financial duties. In addition, there was no evidence that the records and dockets of the Justice were submitted annually to the Board of Trustees for audit.

Monthly reports to the JCF were not transmitted by the tenth day of the succeeding month, as required by law. All 12 monthly reports issued for the fiscal year ended May 31, 2003, were late, some by more than four months. We also found inaccuracies in the information contained on the monthly reports. Our tests disclosed instances where receipts of fines for vehicle and traffic violations and Village code violations were not posted to monthly reports or posted inaccurately.

Due to inadequate procedures and weak internal controls, parking tickets and appearance tickets issued were not processed in a timely and accurate manner. As of October 15, 2003, a large number of parking tickets remained outstanding and unenforced, some for more than three years. In addition, we were unable to determine the total number of appearance tickets issued during the 2002-2003 fiscal year due to the inadequacy of the records and lack of controls over the inventory of appearance ticket books. Appearance tickets were issued out of numerical sequence, ticket books given to code enforcement officers were not always recorded, and code enforcement officers were not required to turn in ticket books after all tickets had been issued.

Comments of Local Officials

The results of our audit and recommendations have been discussed with Village officials and their comments, which appear in Appendix A, have been considered in preparing this report. Village officials generally agreed with our recommendations and indicated they planned to initiate corrective action.

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