Ocean View undergoes state audit

All municipalities within the state of Delaware are subject to state audits on a regular basis, but a formal inquiry by one council member and a petition by about 200 of the town’s citizens recently led to Ocean View’s regular audits being moved up – to now.

Audits of the Town of Ocean View’s grants from the State Aid to Local Law Enforcement and monies received to help fund pensions for sworn Ocean View police officers, and of the Municipal Street Aid Fund, conducted Jan. 8, have shown no faults in the town’s handing of the related grants, town officials emphasized this week.

According to Mayor Gordon Wood, the audits are normally performed in Delaware towns on a rotating basis, but because of a request from the Governor’s Office in response to a Sept. 14, 2008, letter from Councilman Bill Wichmann and a petition signed by approximately 200 people requesting an audit of the town’s finances, the audits were conducted all at once instead of over a more expanded time period.

“The three programs are required to be audited periodically, and what they did was audit three in one year,” explained Wood this week.

Wichmann’s assertion is that Police Chief Ken McLaughlin has proven “very good” at obtaining grants for necessary equipment and training and that the town failed to credit some of the grant money he obtained for the police to the police department, and, as a result, the town misstated in budget discussions that the police department was over-budget – a situation that prompted citizens to request an audit of the town’s bookkeeping.

The petition questioned the town’s bookkeeping across the board, but the grants – which are audited periodically anyway – were what the state’s office was concentrating on in their audits, Wood noted.

Nicholas Adams, executive assistant to State Auditor R. Thomas Wagner Jr., told the Coastal Point this week that the audits were contracted out to private accounting firm of Garbowski, Sparano and Vincelette, under contract to the Office of Auditor of Accounts.

“We contracted that out because 99 percent of the time, it turns out to be nothing, and we can concentrate on cases that involve fraud and abuses,” Adams said.

The town emphasized in a press release it issued this week that “these audits had nothing to do with uncovering alleged accounting violations or correcting the Town’s FY 08 audit report. Mayor Wood said the Town welcomed the review of the two public safety grants, along with the Municipal Street Aid Fund, and no finding of fault was found in any of the audits.”

“It was much ado about nothing,” added Wood on Tuesday, of the time and effort spent to audit the grants.