AP audit discovers evidence of misappropriation within fire department

The Lackawanna Fire Department in New York has been accused of paying firefighters for time not worked after an accounts payable audit found discrepancies in its financial records.

According to Buffalo News, taxpayer funds were used in overpayments to department firefighters for time that they did not put in. An investigation led by New York's Comptroller's Office revealed that more than $120,000 in unearned wages and leave time was issued to firefighters. The misappropriation allegedly took place over a period of six years and approximately 28 of 45 firefighters were overpaid. The Comptroller's Office claims that the errors were made due to a lack of financial checks and balances within the department.

The organization has a policy in place that allows firefighters to trade shifts with other workers, reports the news source. However, many of those who traded scheduled time and never worked hours to make up for the switch were ultimately paid. Issues with overtime pay also were discovered during the examination.

City officials were upset after the audit report was released, states WIVB-TV. Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski said the large amount of misappropriated funds was disappointing as residents ultimately footed the bill. However, the fire department believes there was no criminal activity or wrongdoing.

"The difficulty starts with trying to follow through where it started from and where it's going, and who took over whom, who has earned overtime," said Szymanski.

The Comptroller's Office included recommendations in its report, states the Buffalo News. The department is encouraged to update and provide better oversight of hours worked, as well as its bookkeeping processes.

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