Comptroller slams former Cobleskill clerk; charges cover-up


By Jim Poole

A scathing audit from the State Comptroller’s Office confirms what Cobleskill officials already knew:
Village finances were in a mess in 2016 and ’17.
Released last week, the Comptroller’s audit confirms an audit done earlier by private accountants, but in more detail.
The audit found former clerk-treasurer Samantha Moyster made mistakes in payroll and health insurance payments, placed revenue in wrong accounts, and didn’t reconcile payments to the accounting system.
“Therefore, Village officials were unable to verify that all money recorded as collected in the detailed customer accounts was deposited,” the audit reads.
The upshot was that village officials couldn’t make informed financial decisions because they didn’t know how much money was in accounts.
“She screwed up so badly,” said current Mayor Becky Terk, who wasn’t on the board at the time. “There was no accountability.”
Possibly more damning, the audit found Ms. Moyster received $8,828 that she shouldn’t have received––and village officials may try to collect that money. (See related story.)
Although the audit sharply criticizes Ms. Moyster, it also targets former mayor Linda Holmes because she “was aware of some of these discrepancies but failed to notify the Board and instead allowed the errors and irregularities discussed in this report to continue.”
The audit contends that the board should have provided more oversight of Ms. Moyster, though not all trustees were aware of the problems.
Two of the four village trustees were on the personnel committee, but the other two “were never made aware of the significant issues,” the audit reads.
Former mayor Holmes never discussed the financial problems in public meetings, according to the audit, and:
“A member of the personnel committee told us that the former Mayor gave specific instructions not to report any information to the entire board.”
Contacted Friday, Ms. Holmes said there was no cover up.
“That’s not true at all,” she said. “We were open about it. I never said that [to withhold information.]”
Whether there was a cover up or not, village officials took steps to correct the problems.
Cobleskill’s finances began to turn around in 2018. The village board did not rehire Ms. Moyster and first brought in private accountant Lyn Lawyer and then hired Sheila Wilday, who had been clerk-treasurer for years.
Ms. Lawyer corrected many of the mistakes, and Ms. Wilday continued the job; an independent audit of 2018 showed village finances in good condition.
That work will continue, Mayor Terk said.
“Our corrective action plan is already in place,” she said.
“We’re on the right track, and we’ve handled much of it with the return of Sheila.”