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Hempstead Town Animal Shelter Criticized in Audit

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli releases findings of investigation into fiscal operations at Wantagh facility.

The Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh. Credit Anthony Pirro
The Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh. Credit Anthony Pirro
High operational costs, a mismanagement of overtime expenses and poor record-keeping were among the findings of a recent audit on the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced Friday.

The audit into the shelter on 3320 Beltagh Ave. in Wantagh was undertaken by DiNapoli’s office after requests by town residents and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. A full report of the audit can be found by clicking here

“The shelter’s finances and animal care issues have long been a concern of town residents,” said DiNapoli in a statement. “Our audit has shed much-needed light on several of the problems that plague the operation of this facility. The shelter’s finances need to be more closely scrutinized to ensure that animals receive proper care and taxpayers aren’t paying excessive costs." 

DiNapoli said the audit showed that the shelter’s operational costs were higher than animal shelters in the Towns of Islip and Brookhaven in every category reviewed including total costs and expenses per animal processed. In 2010, the T

Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter’s total salary costs were $2.7 million compared to $820,076 in Islip and $1.5 million in Brookhaven, the audit showed. The average salary for the shelter’s 32 full-time employees was $79,247, according to the audit.

The Town of Hempstead issued a statement in response to the audit results emphasizing that the report shows no findings of mistreating animals or providing substandard care for animals at the shelter.

Hempstead officials also emphasized that they have already implemented some of recommendations from the audit including putting shelter operations into the general fund of the town’s budget as well as addressing operation costs. 

A portion of the Town of Hempstead statement reads: “By adopting the state comptroller’s accounting methodology, the 2013 town budget reflects a $3.37 million reduction in the animal shelter’s budget. Finally, the town has already taken steps to address the comptroller’s recommendations in the areas of cost control and operational oversight. Specifically, computerization upgrades, the implementation of a cost allocation analysis and the adoption of more stringent operational procedures are making the shelter more efficient and cost effective.”

Other findings from the audit were: 
  • The shelter did not have formal procedures on how to manage, document, approve and verify overtime worked. The town paid $359,408 for 8,860 overtime hours worked at the shelter from 2007 to 2011. The overtime hours reviewed by auditors could not be adequately justified.
  • The town-wide general fund inappropriately charged the shelter $3.5 million in 2010 and $2.6 million in 2011 for administrative cost charge-backs. 
  • Administrative costs charged to various departments did not reflect the actual services received. 
  • Supervisory staff did not periodically review the office copy of issued receipt forms, and did not investigate and document in writing any variances in information, gaps or missing receipt forms. 
“While these problems do not rise to the level of criminality, the comptroller’s review found systemic problems that compromise the public’s confidence and could detract from the shelter’s overall mission and responsibility to its animals and the community,” said Rice in a statement. “While our investigation found no criminal abuse or neglect of the shelter’s animals, both the animals and taxpayers will be well-served if the town promptly adopts the comptroller’s recommendations.” 

This story was written by Andrew Coen.

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