During her run for Putnam County executive, Kent Supervisor Maureen Fleming has touted her strong fiscal record during her tenure at the town level, but a New York State audit conducted a year ago asserted Kent could’ve been doing more to potentially save money.
According to the audit report conducted from Jan. 1, 2016-Jan. 25, 2017, town officials did not use competitive bidding, issue requests for proposals (RFP) or obtain quotes, as required, for purchasing that cost about $268,000. Three purchases were for professional services that equaled $137,162 without going out for an RFP first; six purchases were from six vendors for $65,982 without seeking the required written or verbal quotes; and then another $64,850 was paid for welding services without using competitive bidding.
“When purchases are made without a competitive process, there is the risk that goods and services were not purchased at the best prices and were not obtained prudently,” part of the audit stated.
The audit also raised concerns that the town at the time of the report did not develop a disaster recovery plan or establish controls to stop employees from installing games or visiting social media sites. Of the 27 computers tested, seven computers had multiple game programs downloaded. The games could’ve possibly possess spyware and could cause an application to crash, the report stated.
State officials also found “questionable internet use” by town employees including visiting to websites for online banking and investment, shopping, travel, sports, social networking and entertainment. Perhaps the most eye popping reveal from the report was that one computer was used for dating, solicitation of various sexual acts and pornography.
In her response a year ago, Fleming noted the town, since 2014 when she took over, has regularly solicited RFPs for services, resulting in “substantial savings” and has been a vast improvement from an audit conducted in 2009-2010. Years back when former supervisor Kathy Doherty was in charge, the town spent more than $700,000 on certain services, according to a 2011 audit, which is about $600,000 more than under Fleming’s leadership, Fleming wrote.
“Since 2014, the Town has authorized RFPs for a myriad of services and has narrowed its view of what falls within the exceptions under the statue,” Fleming wrote. “In instances when the Board had not solicited for RFPs, it had moved forward on the advice of counsel.”
Fleming has proposed five straight budgets where taxes have not increased in Kent.
As for the Internet use that didn’t involve work, Fleming said all systems were audited in July 2017 and any software deemed unnecessary, including pre-installed games, were deleted. Web history would also be reviewed, Fleming wrote last year, and the one system found in “serious violation” of policy was removed and replaced in April 2017. The employee that visited pornography sites was no longer with the town.
Going into the Opportunity to Ballot primary for the Conservative line against Fleming, County Executive MaryEllen Odell in a letter to the editor printed in a couple of newspapers knocked her opponent over the audit report and also noted that when the town had IT issues, the county stepped in provide services at no cost.
“I am supportive of this continued good relationship for the people of the Town of Kent, despite a lack of appreciation—all in good governance,” Odell wrote.
In a statement to The Putnam Examiner, Fleming said many of the services mentioned in the report were not required to go out to bid according to town law and case law regarding those services.
“In all instances, the Town acted on the advice on counsel and within the law,” Fleming stated.
Fleming then took a swipe at Odell, noting a 2016 audit of the county’s Department of Consumer Affairs revealed that the former head of the department had engaged in criminal behavior. Former department director Jean Noel was arrested and charged with stealing money from the department and eventually pleaded guilty to petit larceny.
“I can proudly state that no one in my administration or anyone employed by the Town in my tenure has been the subject to any probes of local or state law enforcement agencies for criminal activities or have been convicted of any crimes related to their officials duties,” Fleming stated.