Audit into Albany County payroll misuse to resume

Albany County

ALBANY COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — An Albany County investigation into misused payroll money is going forward, but the former comptroller and his successor are each making sure it does their way.

“I actually hired a chief auditor, and she’s a CIA — a certified internal auditor — and she starts on Monday. This will be her assignment, to finish this audit,” says Albany County’s newly elected Comptroller Susan Rizzo.

“I’m working with several county legislators now, we are preparing some resolutions that would enact some of the recommendations in the interim report,” replies Rizzo’s predecessor, Michael Conners.

The unfinished audit was announced December 19 by former comptroller Conners before he left office at the end of the year. His successor, Rizzo, says she couldn’t get started on finishing it until now, because the full 715 pages weren’t available to her.

“What surprises me is that in the five months I was transitioning into this position, this was never made available to me,” Rizzo explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “I wasn’t left with a box of files. I had to go seek and find.”

Conners sent NEWS10 a copy of an email he sent to every county employee on December 24. It showed his 43 page audit findings where employees were paid from multiple budget lines — at times getting more than 70 hours a week — not clocking in properly, where he tried to reach out to their department heads, and where some refused to cooperate with the investigation.

“I’m aware there was an email. I did notice hundreds of emails that went out. I did not look at what he sent in that email,” Rizzo says when asked about whether she had seen the report.

“They had the audit, they knew what the issues were. There have been tremendous correspondence between our office, and our attorneys we had to hire, and the county attorney who is now the deputy county executive,” Conners says. “For them to say that they didn’t know what was in the audit or in the interim report is completely fallacious. It’s laughable.”

Rizzo says she took an independent route to make sure she had everything she needed.

“There’s a lot of stuff, but I needed to make sure that I got it complete and knew what was actually here, so that’s why I contacted the law firm and the forensic auditor to make sure I got all the exhibits and all the information,” Rizzo explains.

“The audit was not done the way I usually do audits, where you create a draft, you send it to the parties, they responded to your recommendations, and then you respond to them,” she goes on to say.

Rizzo says she’s already met with county HR and the management and budget offices to get their explanations of the discrepancies.

“They do have explanations for a lot of it, but I will be digging deeper and making sure this gets finished,” she says.

“We’ll see what they do, but it’s Albany County. I don’t expect much,” Conners concludes, referencing the current comptroller’s assurances.

Conners says he will continue pursuing his solutions to the audit findings independently.

“The legislators I’m in contact with are more focused on fixing the problems and we’ve discussed some of the recommendations I outlined in the interim report. That you cannot campaign on county time, that should be easy to happen. That you can only be paid out of one line, that seems to be straightforward. What we’ve done is we made county employees file false instruments,” he says.

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