Bath closes year, hires new auditors firm

Mary Perham
Kelly Guthrie

Bath village trustees wrapped up a chaotic old year Tuesday with a new contract for auditing services.

During its annual year-end meeting, trustees unanimously approved a $17,500 contract with the Bonadio Group for 2011-12. Bonadio also annually audits Steuben County finances.

The past few months have been a difficult one for the board and village residents.

Last December the state issued a scathing report on the operations and finances of the village and its utility Bath Electric Gas and Water Systems.

The State Comptroller’s report covered the village’s finances and government functions from June 2007-August 2009, and found chaos and potential criminal activity due largely to a lack of control and oversight by elected officials.

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The report also was highly  critical of utility management, noting BEGWS Director Matt Benesh received $22,362 and Susan Daniels took in $11,905 they were not entitled to. The actual amount owed is still being looked into.

The state also noted conflicts of interest for Benesh, his wife Marie, and her sister, Donna Simonson. Simonson, a village trustee for the past three years, is now mayor of Bath.

Auditors also complained about mismanagement and theft by former village Clerk Kelly Guthrie, who quit abruptly in August 2009 and admitted in court last January she stole $11,544 from the village during her time in office.

Since then, the board has been scrupulous with its own internal audit and pledged to hire an independent, outside auditor.

An investigation is continuing into another report of overpayment to an unidentified village employee, and village Attorney John Leyden is expected to report to the board soon on the discrepancies in repayments by Benesh and Daniels.

In other action, trustees

Agreed to allow mobile vending units only in Pulteney Park with a peddler’s permit and only on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Approved a contract with Brown & Brown Insurance for the fiscal year 2011-2012 for $144,304.

Agreed to update the village Code with new legislation, provide the village with new code books and post the village’s code online.

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