Photo by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON — “Tonight the mayor announced at our special meeting of the Village Board of Trustees that, yesterday, the Village Treasurer resigned effective immediately,” read a Facebook status posted by Village of Ballston Spa Trustee Noah Shaw, on Sept. 6. It was later confirmed in a village board meeting on Sept. 10 by Mayor John Romano.
The Ballston Spa Treasurer was Christopher Hickey, who was also the Budget Officer. He has resigned from both positions. The village’s deputy treasurer, internal control officer, personnel officer, and compliance officer, Darryl Purinton resigned the next day from all of those titles except internal controls officer. It was noted in the board meeting that Purinton's salary for internal controls officer is $68,000.
The status posted by Shaw also says things like “next steps will be essential to resetting the Village’s financial systems and controls, and to bring us back into good order,” and “we will be working to fix the array of issues that have been allowed to fester for far too long in the Village government’s systems, controls and financial accounting.”
According to Shaw, “two prior audits from the office of the state Comptroller have identified issues with respect to the village's financial systems and controls.”
“Since I was elected last year, I have also identified at public meetings and otherwise various items and practices that I believe are deficient,” he added. However, Shaw says that he did not have direct discussion with Hickey concerning reasons why he resigned.
Ballston Spa resident Liz Kormos who says she attends town and village meetings religiously said, “there was never in previous years, when there was budgeting, there was never any real discussion in public about the numbers."
“You know other places I go that periodically talk about the performance, what the issues are, — this village they go through a list of expenditures and approve them. That is the gist before these new trustees got elected, that’s all they did,” Kormos said referring to new trustees, Noah Shaw and Shawn Raymond.
According to Kormos the lack of budgeting information provided to the public has been an issue for some time now. “Now it’s coming to light and we have the opportunity to fix it and make it better,” she added.
In the board meeting that took place on Sept. 10, hiring an interim accounting firm until a new full-time treasurer is found was discussed.
“We have solicited bids from regional accounting firms with municipal expertise to help fulfill the functions of the treasurer while we search for a full-time treasurer. I also hope that firm will make certain recommendations regarding how we can improve our system and controls,” Shaw said.
“I think the mayor and I are aligned with respect to commencing the hiring process for the treasurer ASAP. Where we diverged at the meeting last night (Sept. 10) was with respect to the time frame for convening an informal citizens' advisory group. I would like to get that convened soon; the mayor preferred to delay on the resolution I introduced, however, the board voted to move forward at the next meeting,” Shaw said.
The next meeting will take place on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at Village Hall located at 66 Front St.
"We're invested in this community. We want to stay here and we want to make good use of the tax dollars... We've got to get this place on sound financial footing to be able to handle those things,” Kormos added.