An audit by the New York State Comptroller’s Office found a variety of problems -- and one possible case of fraud -- in the state’s snowmobile trail grooming program.
According to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Pay Deyle falsified documentation and improperly used his dual authority as Herkimer County Snowmobile Association treasurer and president of the Ilion Snowdrifters to redirect funds from one snowmobile club to his own.
“Deyle admitted he falsified grooming logs and submitted them in an effort to collect the maximum aid allotted to Herkimer County,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The state Office of Parks and Historic Preservation needs to provide better oversight to make sure these funds go to the proper clubs.”
The audit’s findings have been referred to the Herkimer County District Attorney’s Office.
“I turned it over to the New York State Police, so now the criminal investigation has commenced,” Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter said Wednesday.
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation receives about $5 million annually in aid from snowmobile registration fees and penalties individuals pay to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The money is distributed to “sponsors,” such as counties and municipalities, who administer snowmobile trail services. The state Parks office uses an allocation formula to provide funds to sponsors based on the number of trail miles and characteristics of each area.
DiNapoli’s auditors found Deyle improperly redirected funds from the Long Pond Snow Sled Club to the Snowdrifters. The association acted as an intermediary that received the funds from the local sponsor, Herkimer County, and distributed them to the clubs, the audit said.
In 2009 - 2010, Deyle requested and received $5,518 on behalf of Long Pond, but paid $4,385. A year earlier, he received $6,600 and paid $4,300 to Long Pond, DiNapoli said. So a total of $3,433 improperly went to the Snowdrifters over the two years, the comptroller said in a statement.
Deyle said any allegations of wrongdoing were news to him. Although the comptroller’s office announced the audit in a news release Wednesday, Deyle said he has not been made aware of the audit’s findings and has not heard from the comptroller’s office in more than two years.
Deyle also said on Wednesday he gave the remaining balance of Long Pond’s funds to the Snowdrifters after an official at the state Parks office told Deyle they could not take the money back.
“I tried, and I did what I was told by New York State Parks and Recreation,” he said.
Because the Snowdrifters spends more money than Long Pond to maintain trails, Deyle said it made sense for the Snowdrifters to get any leftover funds. The Snowdrifters club maintains about 80 miles of trails for about 600 members, while Long Pond has about 10 miles of trails for about 50 members.
Page 2 of 2 - The report recommends the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation take corrective action to ensure the Long Pond club receives the funds it was entitled to, and any improperly-received funds elsewhere are recovered or future payments are adjusted accordingly.
The audit also found eight counties improperly assessed administrative fees on snowmobile clubs, totaling $48,397 for three years as of March 31, 2011. The counties were Tioga, Chautauqua, Chenango, Orleans, Cortland, Madison, Niagara and Otsego. Auditors identified another six local sponsors — Chenango, Orleans, Cortland, Madison, Niagara and Otsego counties — that, subsequent to disbursing the state Parks funds to trail maintenance entities, improperly charged the entities administrative fees totaling more than $41,780 for the three years ending March 31, 2011.
And In contrast to other trail maintenance entities reviewed, all of which used unpaid volunteers, the Franklin County Snowmobile Association paid its trail groomer operators $79,885 for fiscal years 2008 - 09 and 2009 - 10 combined, with pay rates ranging from $12 per hour for groomer operators to $15 per hour for the president and vice president, the audit found. Of this $54,984 was paid to the association’s top officers — $23,044 to the president and $31,940 to the vice president.
For a copy of the audit report, visit http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093013/11s5.pdf.
Contributing: GateHouse News Service