Weeks after a scathing state Comptroller’s report on the Village of Bath’s operations, a group of residents crowded into a courtroom or stood out in the hall, looking for clarity on the state audit.

Weeks after a scathing state Comptroller’s report on the Village of Bath’s operations, a group of residents crowded into a courtroom or stood out in the hall, looking for clarity on the state audit.
According to the group’s spokesman, Kevin Harrison, the residents are considering legal action based on the report and want two employees of the village’s utility, Bath Electric Gas and Water Systems, to resign.
The state audit, released in December, cited numerous flaws in the financial dealings of the village and Bath Electric Gas and Water Systems.
The 47-page review reported outright theft by a former village clerk and chaotic record-keeping and bookkeeping. The utility was cited for conflicts of interest and overpayment to the utility’s two top officials.
Harrison said they have been unable to verify village officials’ claims the utility officials, Matt Benesh and Susan Daniels, have paid back the overpayments totaling $32,600, and asked for payroll records to prove it.
Harrison said state civil service law requires the village to produce showing Benesh and Daniels have paid back the money.
He said the utility officials should resign and questioned why former village Clerk Kelly Guthrie faced criminal charges while Benesh and Daniels reportedly were allowed to pay back the money.
Guthrie pleaded guilty two weeks ago to charges she stole $11,544 from village taxpayers.
Harrison also questioned an unreported, potential conflict of interest between Benesh, his wife Marie Benesh and her sister, Mayor Donna Simonson. Simonson was a trustee in 2004.
While the audit noted conflicts after 2007, the report did not cover the year 2004 when Marie Benesh was awarded a consultant’s contract for a software program for BEGWS, Harrison said. The yearly contract was awarded without an open bidding process, and paid her $50,000-$60,000, he said. Harrison also told trustees the group is considering hiring local attorney Susan BetzJitomir if the issues are not resolved.
Matt Benesh was defended at Tuesday’s meeting by former village trustee Kate Mattoon Hoffman, who was on the board until 2006.
Hoffman said she was “embarrassed” by the press coverage of the audit, claiming she called for an audit of the village during the summer of 2009 and that Benesh had also attempted to bring the problems to light.
However, according to the state Comptroller’s office, the Village of Bath requested an audit of BEGWS shortly after trustees dissolved the utility commission and took on oversight of the company in May 2008.
Hoffman is secretary to state Supreme Court Justice Henry J. Scudder, the husband of an ousted BEGWS commissioner.
Hoffman said newspaper accounts also did not mention auditors noted excess payments to village employees.
But in its response to the Comptroller’s report, the board noted the excess to employees was actually normal, budgeted salary increases that had not been properly approved by the board. Trustees said they would not penalize the employees for the board’s mistakes.
One resident told the board the issue seems to be about a difference between what is legal, and what is ethical.
“There are good people on this board,” he said. “But you have to earn back our trust.