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O'CONNELL ADDRESSES COUNTY LEGISLATURE'S GOVERNMENT SERVICES COMMITTEE

Corrects timeline misstatements in Comptroller's Audit Clarifies office functions and its obligations

(MINEOLA - April 17, 2007) After an audit that began in 2002, Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell addressed the Nassau County Legislature’s Government Services Committee on the comptroller’s audit findings, which were released nearly a month ago. “I am delighted that I am given the opportunity by the legislature to respond to this audit,” she began. I am equally delighted that the Comptroller confirmed what I have already known - this office can account for all funds remitted, there is no wrongdoing, but staff and resources are needed.” O’Connell further stated, “this office is doing an exemplary job with the limited resources allocated for clerk operations. Further, I plan to continue to request additional staff and the resources necessary to make additional improvements that will assure that funds collected in this office are further safeguarded.”

The County Clerk began by correcting the timeline of the audit. “I first met with the County Comptroller in December 2005, before assuming office, because I wanted to be assured that the financial processes of the office reflect the best practices to safeguard public money. Shortly after I took office in January 2006, I wrote him asking that he resume the audit and advise me of any problems with the accounting procedures employed by this office that he may have found. After no response, I wrote another letter less than 2 weeks later. However, the audit did not recommence until March 2006, the fieldwork completed in September 2006, but I was not advised of the findings until 4-months later, nearly a year after my original request,” she stated.

The County Clerk emphasized that the Office of the County Clerk is a unique and diverse agency that serves the interests of Nassau County, New York State and the Federal government. In her presentation, her responsibilities to these different levels of government were demonstrated. “We are a full service public department, proving professionals and residents with services that include Passports, Notary Public filings, filing Supreme Court Cases, recording all land transactions, filing money judgments, maintaining Federal Tax liens and Judgments and electronic filing of Supreme Court files, to name a few. Each of these filing are under the scrutiny of their respective jurisdictions. For example, passports are under the United State Dept. of State, Notaries, Supreme Court cases and land transactions are under State agencies. Revenues collected on behalf of these agencies are independently audited and reconciled by them,” she added. The county clerk disapproved the characterizations made by the comptroller that her office can be compared to a mom and pop operation or a lemonade stand.

“To date, I have been in office a little more than 15-months, or 472-days to be exact. In this time period, we have cleaned up a significant backlog, implemented new procedures to prevent a future backlog, created electronic directories for the staff, recorded more than 650,000 documents, collected nearly $14-million in revenue for the county, and brought our expenses under budget by nearly $.5 million,” she added. The clerk presented the members of the legislative committee with her first annual report, outlining revenues, expenses and disbursements in 2006. “I am in the process of making this annual report available online and plan on providing online annual reports in the future,” affirmed the clerk.

“That being said,” continued O’Connell, “revenues collected that are county funds are deposited in the county’s treasury but State and Federal funds cannot be co-mingled with county funds,” she emphasized. There are 62-counties in New York State. Each of the Clerks of these counties, Nassau included, collects enormous amounts of revenues for our respective municipalities. We all adhere to the accounting principles that govern our offices and each use similar accounting/recording programs to ensure that all records are accurate and revenues we collect are disbursed according to law.

“As my preliminary objective regarding the backlog has been met, I am now reviewing the financial controls and all procedures we have in place. I look forward to implementing further improvements that will be of benefit not only to the office, but the taxpayers of Nassau County,” she concluded. She thanked the members of the legislative committee for their time and offered each of them a personal tour of the County Clerk’s office.