Comptroller issues stinging audit of Camillus Fire Department finances

The State Comptrollerâ??s Office has issued a stinging audit of the Camillus Volunteer Fire Department, confirming allegations made to CNY Central by a whistleblower.

On September 19, 2013, Camillus Fire Department Lieutenant William Vivenzio told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon that as the assistant treasurer, he "wrote the checks" and claimed "it's misuse of funds. It's actually fraud." Vivenzio had been suspended from the department at the time for an unrelated violation of department rules.

Vivenzio's complaint to CNY Central resulted in a formal audit by investigators from the New York State Comptroller's office.

The audit was released to the public on June 6th. It covers the financial operations of the Camillus Fire Department for the period of January 1, 2012 through October 31, 2013.

Among other things, the audit found:

-- The Camillus Fire Department received $81,171 in revenue but spent $88,514

--Auditors found "controls are not adequate to ensure that financial activity is properly recorded and reported

--$29,724 in debit card purchases without prior approval

--A lack of receipts for purchases

--$10,795 spent at local restaurants

--Cash payments to members who attended a Fire Chiefs Conference at the Turning Stone Casino was based on rank with Chiefs receiving $750, Lieutenants receiving $200 and $100 for other members.

The Comptroller made a number of recommendations including:

--Treasurer should maintain accurate and timely records

-- Monthly and annual financial reports

--Use of credit cards instead of debit cards

--Adequate documentation of expenditures

--Elimination of direct cash payments to Fire Department Members

Attached to the audit is the official response from Cheryl Hutchins, President of the Camillus Volunteer Fire Department.

Hutchins wrote that the Department "recognizes the importance of rigorous financial controls." She said that the Department has appointed a new treasurer with prior experience.

Hutchins also pointed out that Camillus Fire Department Volunteers average 20 hours a week for training and to provide fire and emergency protection to Camillus. "There is no monetary personal benefit derived from membership in the CFD."

The Department also claims "we are confident that the expenditures under audit were for legitimate and authorized purposes."

Never the less the Camillus Fire Department is in the process of submitting a "corrective action plan."

Vivenzio, who first exposed the alleged misuse of funds, says the Onondaga County District Attorney's office should review the audit for possible wrongdoing.